The Smallwood Trust and systemic change
Coventry Women's Partnership
Four years ago, Smallwood began to explore a more transformational approach to our grant-making and funded a three year place-based pilot in Coventry - the Coventry Women’s Partnership - to improve economic outcomes for women.
In the first three years the partnership set out to help 300 women but in fact supported more than 800. It has also received international recognition for its contribution to the publication of six reports by The Women’s Budget Group on the impact of the project on the individuals and communities it supported.
The project was a three-year pilot funded by the Smallwood Trust and co-ordinated by the Women’s Budget Group. Women reported substantial – and statistically significant – improvements in their mental health, physical health, relationships, finances, debt, legal status and housing. Service staff also reported that increased collaboration, more effective referrals and greater knowledge of partner services had improved the quality of services and, as a result, also outcomes for women. You can read more about this network here
Harnessing the learning from this partnership, we launched a new place-based funding programme - the Women’s Sector Resilience Fund Phase 2 - to support networks led by and for women to make change to the systems that cause gendered poverty in their area.
Today we are pleased to publicly announce the two successful networks - Birmingham No Recourse to Public Funds Support Network and Women of Wythenshawe
Birmingham No Recourse to Public Funds Support Network
This network has come together to urgently address the needs of women who are experiencing domestic violence (DV) with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) in the West Midlands that have been compounded by Covid. Birmingham NRPF Support Network will holistically support women with NRPF, maximise resources by promoting inter-agency response and referral pathways and amplify their voices to create an evidence base for systems change.
The Birmingham network wants to develop a more coordinated and responsive set of services for women with NRPF. This will lead to improved referral pathways that reduce the likelihood of women ‘falling through the cracks and becoming homeless, and so also protects their children. Whilst supporting more joined-up ways of support for women with NRPF, the network will also influence practice and processes using women’s voices and lived experiences to lead best practices, provide examples, and continuously challenge/call out bad practices so that NRPF women are treated fairly, with dignity and respect.
Alongside this, the Birmingham’ No Recourse to Public Funds Support Network will develop and pilot solutions at local and national policy levels, to support women with NRPF to access welfare, advice, and housing.
The network is led by Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid. Partners include: Central England Law Centre Birmingham, Refugee and Migrant Centre, Baobab Women’s Project, The British Red Cross and Roshni Birmingham.
‘We are delighted to be able to bring our shared but different expertise together to improve the situation for this incredibly vulnerable group of women. Together we can provide accommodation, access to legal advice, resolve women’s immigration status and provide emotional and financial support and give them a voice amongst local and national decision makers. We have all been working with women with NRPF who are survivors of domestic abuse for some time but this is the first time we have had the opportunity to come together and try to make long term change that will mean no women and children experiencing domestic abuse will be driven into poverty and destitution or be unable to flee violence and abuse no matter their immigration status’, Birmingham NRPF Support Network Representative.
Women of Wythenshawe (WoW)
WoW aims to bring women together across difference and around their shared goals and the place that they have in common to achieve better outcomes for Women in Wythenshawe. The network aims to achieve as rich and broad a diversity of members as possible including a range of ages, ethnic backgrounds, and different kinds of experiences.
After witnessing a gradual breakdown in community relations and trust between people and across neighbourhoods in Wythenshawe over the past twenty years, this network seeks to bring low-income women into dialogue with each other and identify critical challenges that are holding them in poverty, prioritise issues that are acute or cross-cutting, and co-produce solutions with professionals with access to the power and relationships that low-income women need to achieve lasting change.
Women of Wythenshawe’s approach will be driven from the bottom up through the process of dialogue, peer exchange, confidence building, leadership development and enabling. Network partners recognise that women’s voices and experience are critical to long-term success in reducing gendered poverty and improving wellbeing among low-income women in Wythenshawe.
Women of Wythenshawe will be convened for the first time in three years by Community Led Action and Savings Support with support from Wythenshawe Community Housing Group. Partners include: Lifted Carers, Well Women Project, SENsitive, Mums Mart, Wythenshawe Family Centre, Olive Pathway, Know Africa and Better Things.
Ruth from Know Africa Foundation said: “We are so excited to be part of the Women of Wythenshawe network all the women in our group are excited about it. We have a lot that we need to share and we need to bring our voices out there.”
Emma from Lifted Carers Centre said: “We have been in the Wythenshawe area for 13 years supporting carers of adults or children with learning disabilities and autism. We are really excited to be part of the WoW network because there are so many families that we work with that we want to support to have a louder voice. Many of our mums will be passionately involved in this piece of work over the next three years. Its going to be a fantastic opportunity, also to meet with other groups in our area and become stronger by working together”
You can read WoW's press release here