Funding threat for service for vulnerable women in West Berkshire

AN AWARD-winning community project for vulnerable women in West Berkshire is at risk of closure following a proposal to cut its funding.

Alana House, which is run by the charity Parents And Children Together (PACT), launched its service in West Berkshire in 2014 and runs it as a satellite service from its similar project in Reading.

The project provides holistic support for vulnerable women with complex needs and helps them to make positive life changes and develop new skills.

West Berkshire Council has funded the service since it started with a Public Health grant from the Government. The council needs to make £11m savings in 2016/17 and is proposing that Alana House West Berkshire is one of the projects it withdraws funding from.

PACT’s Head of Communities Development Natausha van Vliet said: “We have worked with more than 50 vulnerable women since we launched our service in West Berkshire last year.

“These women have complex lifestyles or may be at risk of offending and, with our unique package of support, we have seen many of them make positive life changes.

”She added: “We have enjoyed working in partnership with West Berkshire Public Health to set up this service and would be devastated if the project had to close due to the loss of their funding. The impact will be huge for some of the most vulnerable women in West Berkshire.”

One of the women who has used the service at Alana House West Berkshire explained how it had made a difference to her life: “With the debt I was in and Christmas coming up I didn’t know what to do.

“My Alana House support worker encouraged me and took me to a debt agency, who have started arranging repayment plans. Then Alana House gave me and my children Christmas presents and a food parcel! I honestly don’t know what I would have done otherwise.”

Another woman, Maria, said: “Alana House is all women and no men so all of us are in the same situation and we can talk freely about things like drug and alcohol problems and violent relationships without feeling intimidated. I’ve gone to workshops and had one to one sessions.

“I had debt issues so Alana House helped me make payment plans so that the bailiffs didn’t come. My support worker visited me at home too. I’ve been on day trips with other women as well. I’m computer illiterate but next week I’m starting an IT course here.

“Without Alana House I’d most probably be in prison. Before it was like I was drowning, I couldn’t breathe but Alana House helped me swim, they saved me. I’m not on probation anymore but I still come to Alana House.”

West Berkshire Council is undertaking a consultation on the proposed funding cuts and would like to hear the views of people affected. Take part in the consultation at: http://info.westberks.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=31665

In 2014 Alana House won The Howard League for Penal Reform Award in the Community Programme for Women category. To find out more about Alana House visit www.alanahouse.org.

PACT supports vulnerable families through outstanding adoption services, award-winning therapeutic support and community projects in London and the south.