Sutton Women’s Centre

The High Sheriff went slightly out of the county in order to visit this remarkable Centre in Sutton, which was formerly part of Surrey. He and his wife spent 45 minutes chatting with Heather Smiles, the Counselling and Outreach Lead who runs the counselling service and leads on community engagement, and Kerry, who is their Freedom Programme Lead and also a counsellor.  They also met two volunteers who teach computer skills at the Centre.

The Centre is all about empowering women. For 37 years it has worked with women, mainly those who have experienced domestic abuse or sexual assault. 300 women a week are currently being given support by 5 part-time employees and 43 trained counsellors, who are volunteers. It runs the Freedom Programme, which is a 12 week programme led by two facilitators and funded by the Borough of Sutton. There are four programmes a week, each of two hours. About 100 women are currently involved in this programme each week.

Once a month a support group meets, which is for those who have completed the Freedom Programme; about 16 women attend. There is a One Stop Shop on a Wednesday, run by Transform, the umbrella organisation, which, along with the Centre, is in partnership with Cranstoun, a charity that has operated for over 50 years. This enables people to meet IDVAs, (independent domestic abuse advisors), as well as housing advisors, a solicitor, a non-uniformed police officer and a well-being coach.

The Centre is running a Domestic Abuse Ambassador training programme for people in the community who wish to become Ask Me, ambassadors. They will then be able to talk about domestic abuse in their community, raise awareness of it, and be able to advise victims where to seek support.

English as an Additional Language courses are run by the Centre and there is a Writing Group, a Meet a Mum Toddler Group and Parenting Workshops.  They also run art classes, a drama group, exercise sessions and life coaching, plus a regular coffee morning and Wednesday Wellbeing Workshops.  In addition to this, they organise regular Power of Women events and a celebration of International Women’s Day.

A food bank now operates from the premises, with donations from Sainsburys and Morrisons, and 63 families are benefitting from it.

Operating from small premises, this is a really efficient and effective charity, giving so much support to local women.