When this service was available at One25, we saw the number of women referred to substance misuse treatment more than double (from 32 to 70) and as a result we had the largest take up of detox and rehab in our history. Women need to access substitute medication in a female only environment to give them the opportunity to reduce their drug use and gain access to further treatment. Now that this service has stopped, women must attend a mixed environment where they feel at risk, reducing their chances of moving away from street sex work and addiction. We need this service back.
There is currently only one Level 1 hostel for women with complex needs in Bristol. There is a very long waiting list for this option and women have to wait in unsuitable emergency accommodation or sleep rough until a space becomes available. If a woman has had a previous negative experience in this hostel she can find it very challenging to return. An additional option would reduce the waiting time, prevent women from the risk of rough sleeping longer and give women an alternative option.
Women who are awarded Band 2 have an average wait of 18 months to secure a property. This results in women in refuges not being able to move on appropriately, putting them at risk of returning to abusive and dangerous situations and blocks refuge spaces that are limited. Women who have had children removed could be assessed for suitability to maintain a tenancy and referred by appropriate services to be considered for Band 1. Ex-forces are awarded Band 1 for Home-choice. Women who have had their children removed are some of the most vulnerable people in Bristol – could they be given the same opportunity?
Women of multiple disadvantages are often told that they must address substance misuse before being able to access mental health services. Women struggle to address substance misuse needs without appropriate support around trauma and mental health. One25, DHI and the University of Bristol are currently piloting the DUSSK programme (Drug Use in Street Sex worKers), where women can access specialist trauma treatment at the same time as receiving support around addiction. Dedicated services and workers specialised in dual diagnosis would enable women to access the services that they need to recover from trauma and addiction.
Women experiencing domestic violence and abuse need more flexibility to access groups like the Freedom Programme, to support them to stay safe and break free from unhealthy and dangerous relationships. There are geographical and financial barriers to accessing this support. Street sex working women need a tailored Freedom Programme that meets their individual needs and is trauma-informed. Once a woman finds the strength and courage to flee an abusive relationship, she needs this specialist support to prevent her from returning or getting into another abusive relationship with another perpetrator.