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Company Number 8013774

May 2016 Quarterly Meeting notes

Date: 25th May 2016 Wednesday)
Time: 10:00 - 13:00
Venue: Greenside Community Centre, 24 Lilestone Street, London, NW8 8SR [MAP]
Theme: Domestic Abuse among BME communities
AGENDA: Download HERE docx 
Notes: Download below QM notes HERE docx
INFO: This meeting explored the issue of Domestic Abuse from many different angles such as the barriers around housing, the particular difficulties for people with no recourse to public funds and the psychological issues for young people who have been exploited for domestic servitude. Presenters invited were from Al Hasaniya, African Women's Care, Afruca, and Standing Together. At the end of the meeting there was an opportunity for delegates to give feedback to commissioners and providers about what we think the key issues are on this complex topic.
Al-Hasaniya (Angelou partnership) presentation pptx
AFRUCA - Psychological affects of domestic servitude pptx
Standing Together - Domestic Abuse and Housing pptx

Nafsika Thalassis, Director of the BME Health Forum, welcomed all to the meeting and introduced the first item.

Item 1:

Eleanor Fellowes, Domestic Violence Advocate from Al-Hasaniya will speak about the Angelou Partnership

Al-Hasaniya is a Moroccan Advice centre that has been in existence since November 1985.

It is well connected to the local Moroccan community.

The Domestic Violence service with Al-Hasaniya is more recent however.

We now deliver very diverse work in advice and education

  • Group activities
  • Mental Health Project
  • Young women’s project
  • Older people’s project

Al-Hasaniya is part of the Angelou Partnership which is made up of 9 organisations integrating specialist advice and support for women experiencing domestic violence.

Al-Hasaniya specialises in helping the Arabic speaking community.

Common Issues:

Spousal visa

  • No recourse to public funds
  • Tourist visas – for those who are abandoned
  • Shared tenancies – meaning if they move they will find themselves homeless
  • Financial dependence on partners
  • Lack of family support
  • Isolated in the home
  • Anxiety and fear of accessing services – and fear of losing children to social services.

We refer a lot of women to IKRWO’s specialist counselling service.

Some common difficulties are:

  • Struggling to imagine what a new life would look like
  • Limited English

The Angelou team at Al-Hasaniya comprises of an Arabic/ English speaking Independent CV Advocate (IDVA) and an English speaking DV Advocate.

[Download the power point slides at this LINK]


Question: Why is it called Angelou?

Answer: After the writer/ activist Maya Angelou

Question: I’d be interested to see how women are perceived in DV cases when they don’t speak English.

Answer: Yes, there is a palpable tone in services and courts that expresses a view of these women as confused, less clear, or hysterical. This is not across the board but we have noticed it.

Question: How about women’s fear of disclosure?

Answer There can be anxiety and fear, and fear of losing children to social services.

Question: Regarding women’s anxiety and depression – do you offer one to one counselling?

Answer: We refer to Women’s Trust or to IKRWO.

Question: How do you link in with children’s services and what challenges does this cause for women who are mistrustful and fearful of social services.

Answer: We try and establish a good relationship with the social worker. With the women, we try and be open and transparent. We are also always present with them. So far we have managed to work in cooperation with women and social services.

Question: Have any women disclosed to their GP?

Answer: Not really. We more often get referrals from police who refer directly to Advance. We think that women do not disclose to their GP – GPs may not be asking though.

Question/ comment: Must be difficult for GP to be proactive and to ask the necessary questions. Do they know about your service? And is there a gap perhaps in training? Empowering GPs to make that question? Is there an opportunity missed when perhaps women present with injuries at their GP surgery?

Comment from Standing Together: It is recognisable that often health services are the only point of contact for women where they might present. At Standing Together we are involved in a DH pilot project (IRIS) where GP surgeries and staff are being trained to identify and respond to Domestic Abuse victims who present at surgeries.

Further comment: In H&F CCG this has been recognised as an in issue in H&F and we are currently encouraging all staff to attend DV training. (MARAC training is offered across the Tri-borough).


Item 2: Jane Lanyero from African Women’s Care will talk about the work they do supporting women with no recourse to public funds

African Women’s Care is also part of Angelou.

We work with women from Africa living in London. Whilst working with this group of women we have realised there are many women living on a low income with poor access to services. We created a self-help group for women to support them in accessing health and wellbeing services. We have a quality advocacy support service for women experiencing domestic violence.

We offer

  • housing advice
  • Advice on welfare benefits
  • Training

Our role is to provide specialist services to women experiencing domestic violence. We work with women who have had FGM, women with no recourse to public funds.

One of the very big challenges is helping those with no recourse to public funds, The immigration system restricts them from receiving any support including access to refugee housing so these women cannot access them or there is very limited spaces available.

These women include the following:

  • Refused asylum seekers
  • Visa overstayers
  • Those with temp work permits
  • Spouse visa (it takes 2 – 4 years before you can access any benefits on this visa)
  • Student visa

As a result of the restrictions to accessing help for these women -  they have a fear of being either sent back to their country of origin or of being left destitute.

Case study 1:

The Local Authority have a duty to support residents with no recourse to public funds – it is dealt with by the asylum team. They must provide temporary accommodation and some minimum allowance. However they don’t receive women with no recourse to public funds directly – they will be referred from the homeless team.

EEA referral - A Ghanaian couple - she was a nurse and he a civil engineer. They came to the UK in February 2015. In April the husband lost his job and became abusive and violent and the woman fled with her children and stayed with a friend. Because she hadn’t lived in the UK long enough (only 2 months) she had no access to any kind of help. She was referred to MASH team but until she had lived here for 3 months she was given nothing and lived off food banks staying at friends and neighbours.


Case study 2:

Spouse visa - A women married to a British citizen and on a spouse visa. Everything was relatively fine for 3 years until she became pregnant. Her husband did not want a child with her and he started to become abusive. Her midwife told her not to disclose her situation to the police as she may be returned to her country as a result. Finally, the midwife gave her the number of a homeless service and she slept in a night shelter for 3 weeks. It was the people from the night shelter who referred her ADVANCE. She now has access to funds and has been put under the DV concession for 3 months for her to put in her application.

Case study 3:

Student visa – A woman fell in love with a British citizen. She had an HIV test and tested positive. When her man found out he threw her out shamed her by putting her image on social media. The woman was referred to Adult social care. She was looked at as a vulnerable woman. We have put in an application for DV concession for her.

Our services are open for referrals from community groups or via ADVANCE.


Question: Has the National Assistance Act ever impacted/ helped with any of your cases? And would it factor in to getting a DV concession?

Answer: It would depend on the language used in the assessment and if after an assessment the women would be deemed as being able to work or not.

Comment: with regards to those in the UK on a spouse visa – the law has actually changed – no matter what length of time you have stayed in the UK with a spouse visa – you will not be deported.


Item 3: Huda Jawad from Standing Together will talk about the issues around housing for victims of domestic abuse

[Download the power point slides at this LINK]

Standing Together Against Domestic Violence is a third tier charity who work with organisations and the Local Authority.

What is Domestic Violence?

Coercive control is a very important element that has recently been recognised in the law as domestic violence. You can now be prosecuted for coercive control.

Housing – Housing is an important element in domestic abuse:

Some stats:

  • 13% of all acceptances by local housing authorities in England and Wales owed a main homelessness duty on the grounds of DV – however figure is thought to be much higher.
  • According to St Mungo’s 35% of female clients stated DV had played a part in them sleeping rough
  • 40% of all homeless women stated DV as contributing to their homelessness. (Shelter
  • 90% of young people leave home because of family conflict, including witness domestic violence or being a victim of physical or sexual abuse. (Randall and Brown (2001)
  • 75% of DV Homicides occur at the point of separation
  • 60% of survivors left because of fear they or their children would be killed (Women’s Aid)
  • 76% of survivors suffered post separation violence (Women’s Aid)

Leaving in itself does not ensure that women are safe and the point at which a woman decides to leave can in fact be the most dangerous.

Housing plays a central role in outcomes for survivors.

If women leave, where will they go?

Women who have boys who are 13 or over will not be accepted in to women’s refuges

Housing officers will often offer housing outside of London which is not good for women who have no links outside of London.

Women’s experiences of housing:

  • Chronic shortage of housing has been instrumental in women’s experiences with Local Authority.
  • Little understanding of DV and coercive control. Financial abuse and psychological abuse.
  • Because women encounter lack of understanding it discourages them to seek further help.
  • Councils often send women to other boroughs to get cases off their books.
  • Joint tenancies – women lose their tenancies and have to start their applications all over again. Sometimes women are not even named on the tenancy.
  • Joint owners are considered too wealthy – these women have to first become destitute before they can be helped.
  • Private rentals – women are out of work as they are with children OR after 6 months rent goes up and tops housing benefit cap.

Often women will choose a secure tenancy rather than leave an abusive relationship.

Women who are at the point of staying in a refuge will typically move 3 or 4 times before securing housing.

Standing Together – supports agencies support survivors.

Your responsibilities: ASKING. Standing Together have specialist courses about asking questions about DV.

DV is everyone’s responsibility.


Question: I am interested in the dynamic of women being moved out of the borough. Does this have a positive or negative impact?

Answer: Negative. We underestimate how people are affected by domestic abuse. Once women are moved away from what is familiar can mitigate their freedom. They don’t know the landscape in a new area in terms of services and agencies. It hinders their journey of recovery. It is an unsettling feeling to be put somewhere unfamiliar.


Item 4: Josie Dale, Mental Health Psychotherapist from the organisation AFRUCA will talk about the psychological issues for young people trafficked for domestic servitude

[Download the power point slides at this LINK]

AFRUCA – Africans Unite Against Child Abuse.

AFRUCA have 5 key areas of work:

  • Awareness raising on child rights
  • Policy & Advocacy

We have anti-trafficking programmes (trafficking – movement of children for the purpose of exploitation and abuse).  We provide individual support to young people with children. We offer 1:1 and group therapy. We offer a consultation service recognising and understanding the psychological complexity of children trafficked from Africa.

  • Training, Research and Advisory services

We offer bespoke training. We do culturally specific training on things like witchcraft.

  • Community and international development
  • Service provision 

Africa is a continent made up of 54 countries with 6 islands. It is not a homogenous group. It is very diverse culturally.

Private fostering

What is known as private fostering is the cultural norm in many African countries. A parent will entrust their child to a wealthier family with the expectation that the child will have access to an education and a career.

What we are finding is the experience becomes quite different for the children concerned. Where the responsibilities the child is given can be mutually beneficial it can more often be exploitative.

Private fostering is linked to domestic servitude.

  • Work without rest or pay
  • No breaks
  • Malnourished
  • Lack of access to education or healthcare
  • Form of control

What is trafficking for domestic servitude?

  • Invisible and extremely difficult to detect.
  • Mostly perpetrated by private employer.

Common features are subjugation and exploitation:

  • How do you recognise the signs of domestic servitude?
  • Physical abuse – physical signs
  • Doesn’t go to school
  • Limited freedom of movement
  • Look sad and fearful
  • Answer to questions can sound rehearsed or coached
  • No personal id documetns
  • Often referred to as ‘autie’ or ‘mum’
  • Feel part of the family BUT not quite.
  • Anger and rage and inability to make decisions
  • Complex trauma – a repeated, prolonged accumulative abuse involving neglect and abandonment. Occurs at developmental stage.
  • Sleep disturbances
  • High levels of shame and self criticism
  • Memory and recall – difficulty to remember details of traumatic events
  • Self-harm
  • Hyper arousal to fear and danger

AFRUCA works on challenging all these areas.

We often work in spiritual realm. Often spirituality is used to entrap and it is very difficult to shift or move perceptions around this – but we try and work with what they have by trying to work with spiritual beliefs in a positive way.

We offer traima focussed CBT

We do narrative work – creating therapeutic relationships. Creating a safe space where a young person can bring their story or experiences without shame.



Question: Is you approach Afrocentric?

Answer: No, we just work with the person according to where they are from, adapting our approach by taking into account/ understanding culture and beliefs.

Question: You have branches in London and Manchester – does this reflect the demographic of need for your services – or is it random?

Answer: Our clients are referred to us from all over the country in fact. The Manchester branch specialised in FGM and the London branch with Trafficking.


Item 5: Marissa Begonia from Justice for Domestic Workers will talk about the rights of domestic workers

Marssa Begonia: I am a domestic worker; I will return to my work after this meeting. My employer is very important in helping me do my work with Justice for Domestic Workers.

I am a survivor, I am a community organiser, and I am a mother of 3.

For Justice for Domestic Workers (JD4W) I campaign, provide education and provide social trips for domestic workers to gain a social life.

“if household has no windows we don’t see light”.

I left the Philippines when my children were 1, 2 and 3 years old. I had to find a way to provide for them. It was a choice between allowing them to sleep on the floor or leave them and work abroad where there were opportunities for me to provide for them more adequately.

I originally went to Singapore but the pay and conditions of employment were not good enough – I was not allowed to call my family on the phone. I then went to Manila in Hong Kong. My Employer moved to the UK. After the passing the border together it was usual practice to hand my passport back to the employer.

In the UK with this employer I found myself being asked to give massages to a male who laid himself down naked to receive his massage. At this point I became very angry and knew I had get out – to escape. The next morning I handed him my resignation and fled.

At this time in 2004 there was a right for those who had entered on a domestic worker visa to change employer. Since the law changed in 2012 this is no longer the case.

Domestic violence cases for domestic workers.

There are a vast amount of cases of DV amongst domestic workers in the UK. There are cases of terrible violence to women.

I am passionate about the work I do for JD4W because I know first hand what it is like.

In 2012 rights have been removed from domestic workers so that now they cannot change employers so if you leave your employer you will be in breach of the law and undocumented and vulnerable again. This makes domestic workers who are abused, scared to leave their abusers because they fear to be arrested and deported. What keeps them going through all of this is their love for their family and their children at home.



Question: JD4W are based in London – do you do any work elsewhere in the country?

Answer: We do work with people outside of London but because of capacity the most I can do is to direct them to come to us in London.

Question: You mentioned you recently changed employer. Are you happy and safe in your new situation?

Answer: I am now a British citizen so my situation is quite different. Also my employer is very understanding and although currently I negotiate my pay for when I take time off for JD4W I do also work reasonable hours. One of the things we do at JD4W is to empower workers to negotiate hours and know their rights. We have to arm them to be able to speak up for themselves and settle disputes. I am a Unite the Union Rep and we always try and settle employment disputes out of court. Our aim is to empower domestic workers to be able to fight by themselves.

Question: Are women expected to work more than 40 hours per week?

Answer: Not really but because they have limited rights they are vulnerable to exploitation.

Item 6: Workshop: Key messages to commissioners and providers about the provision of services around domestic abuse

Table 1:

  1. Lack of legal (Aid) support for women and men re: DV/ DA
  2. Housing: survivors should be able to remain in the borough where they live
  3. DV/ DA should have same intensity on the agenda as diabetes, mental health, Alzheimer’s e,g organisations like ADVANCE should have positioned access at practices
  4. Training for GPs and healthcare professionals e.g knowing when and the right questions to ask

Table 2:

Provision of services around domestic abuse

  • Better commissioning of community based projects – encouraging a better response to DA through community based groups and services i.e faith
  • More refuge space is always needed
  • Creating better understanding. Parent and child relationships -  barriers in communication due to cultural upbringing.
  • Using library services as a neutral venue to disseminate information about projects in relation to health & wellbeing and including Domestic Violence. Also training library staff (especially front line) in understanding or being aware of domestic violence.

Table 3:

  • Set up a clear guidance of support to women with no recourse to public funds
  • Better access and support for women/ families experiencing VAWG
  • Commissioners – more funding required to support work with BME communities, especially legal services, advocacy and NPF

Table 4:

  • Access to Mental Health services – clients who don’t speak English – are they being adequately catered for? And if interpreters are required would the length of session/ appointments be extended?
  • Communication to GPs