On July 8, I had the opportunity to pay a visit to Causeway and Mid Ulster Women’s Aid to hear about the work they do. It was a real pleasure to meet with Sharon Burnett, the CEO of Causeway and Mid Ulster Women’s Aid, and to see the residential facilities they have in the Causeway area.
The fundamental purpose of Causeway and Mid Ulster Women’s Aid is, “to provide a quality based holistic service to women, children and young people affected by all forms of domestic and sexual violence; to educate, challenge and co-operate with external agencies and the wider community with a vision to eradicate domestic and sexual violence.”
Causeway and Mid Ulster Women’s Aid came in to being in June 2020 as a result of the merger of Causeway Women’s Aid with Mid Ulster Women’s Aid. It had been planned for the merger to take place on April 1 2020, but the arrival of Covid-19 required a delay.
While evidently it was less than ideal for a merger to take place at the start of the pandemic, in speaking to Sharon it was evident that while there have been challenges, the merger has been a success. In the midst of the pandemic, Causeway and Mid Ulster Women’s Aid have been able to continue to provide high quality support to women and their families who have been in need of their support.
As Sharon showed me the Causeway site, I was struck by the high quality of the facilities they have. The site provides accommodation for ten women and can accommodate several families. The site has a spacious back garden with plenty of toys for children and families as well as a play room. It is easy to see why many women who have experienced domestic abuse would find it to be a safe haven.
As with many other temporary accommodation services, Causeway and Mid Ulster Women’s Aid is being impacted by the cost-of-living crisis. Rising costs for electricity and heating are placing increased pressure on service budgets. On top of that, staff are not immune to the pressures which come with increased prices.
Services focused on supporting individuals who have experienced domestic abuse face particular challenges. Causeway and Mid Ulster Women’s Aid provide support to women and their families who in the vast majority of cases will have experienced considerable trauma. Staff will have to help the women they are supporting navigate a range of statutory services including health, justice and education depending on their particular needs. To put it mildly, this can be far from straightforward in practice.
The staff I met at Causeway and Mid Ulster Women’s Aid provide effective support and are deeply committed and dedicated staff who are willing to be flexible and go the extra mile. In speaking to Sharon, her evident passion and care for those she works to support was clear. This is a service which is a formidable champion for those they work with.
I am grateful to Causeway and Mid Ulster Women’s Aid for facilitating my visit. If you want to find out more about Causeway and Mid Ulster Women’s Aid, you can find their website here. Please also give them a follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
This is the latest in Mark’s blog series on his visits to frontline services throughout Northern Ireland.