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Heart of Women’s Work

HOWW programme

The Heart of Women’s Work (HOWW) programme supports women across Derbyshire living with complex needs, in order to improve their circumstances and wellbeing.

The programme recognises that often issues and barriers affecting wellbeing are entwined, for example, women may be affected by domestic violence; lack financial independence or be in debt; be struggling with mental health and or low self-esteem; be dependent on drugs or alcohol; as well as struggling with managing relationships and parenting. 

The statistics reveal that women living in Derbyshire, and their children, are facing higher rates of deprivation and abuse than elsewhere in the country; notably, there is high unemployment (5.8% in Derby compared with 3.8% across Derbyshire as a whole¹) and also high rates of domestic abuse across the region (29,238 incidents of domestic abuse recorded by Derbyshire Police in 2020/21, an increase of over 10,000 cases in the last decade²) with every one in 4 crimes domestic abuse-related². 

¹ Figures for November 2021, see Derbyshire Observatory Unemployment Claimant Count
² Dataset for Year End March 2021, Office of National Statistics, Domestic Abuse in England and Wales – Data Tool

Peer support in community venues

The HOWW project builds a network of peer support for women and their children to improve relationships, reduce isolation, improve health and wellbeing, build confidence, self-esteem and resilience.

HOWW support sessions are offered in community settings such as St Martin’s Community Church, Allenton, and Gayton School, Littleover (although not during lockdown), as well as at Monday afternoon drop-in sessions at our premises. Women are referred to Women’s Work by our partner agencies such as Social Services, The Riverside Group (a social housing provider, and Aquarius (a substance abuse charity) and each case is assessed by a project worker.  If appropriate, a referral is made to the HOWW group and sessions. 

Drop-in sessions are delivered in an unstructured format and are supported by Peer Mentors and volunteers. Project workers signpost women to partners agencies that offer help with finance and debt, and housing and support them to attend any appointments. We also work very closely with partners to add additional services during the sessions, for example, confidence-building techniques are provided by the WEA.  We also host mindfulness and meditation activities delivered by our volunteer therapist at the Women’ Work. 

Peer Mentors are women with lived experience and are integral to the efficacy of the HOWW sessions, as they empathise with the women who attend the sessions and can share their own experiences of Women’s Work and how it has helped them take back control of their lives. 

The informal workshops provide an opportunity for women who are isolated to meet other women and participate in craft activities such as sewing and glass painting which helps boost their self-confidence and helps open conversation about the problems they’re facing.   Practical support is offered in the form of food parcels and a clothes bank.  Our more specialised support, such as Spirit and Soul Equine Therapy, provides a safe environment to promote positive mental health, encourage independence and personal development.


An integrated approach and personalised approach

Following a full assessment of each woman’s particular needs, we refer them to other projects at Women’s Work such as our Freedom programme (to address domestic violence), counselling and parenting courses. We also signpost and support women to access other services if they need other support not offered by Women’s Work, for example, the urgent help of an Independent Domestic Violence Advocate, (an initiative between Derby City Council and Refuge to support women at high risk to escape domestic abuse).   Our team of counsellors can provide therapeutic support to women with emotional stress arising from a variety of issues such as bereavement, depression or change in circumstances. 


HOWW during COVID 19 

During the coronavirus pandemic, we devised a telephone version of HOWW which women could complete over 10 weeks, covering: confidence building, social media security, safety during lockdown, establishing boundaries, emotional resilience, parenting and healthy relationships. 

To read about the impact of the HOWW project please visit ‘Our Impact’.

This programme is proudly supported by
Lottery commnity fund logo_

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