Charity Awards 2024

Solace Women’s Aid

Strengthening the women’s sector and improving services to women post-pandemic

Research shows that women suffered disproportionately as a result of Covid-19, as the pandemic deepened pre-existing inequalities around domestic abuse, mental ill health and financial stress. Their needs increased and while women’s organisations responded with energy and creativity, there was still a lack of joined-up, holistic, user-centred services.

Solace Women's AidSolace Women’s Aid decided that the pandemic offered an opportunity to try to link up large and small organisations across the women’s sector in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, to share good practice, cascade knowledge and experience, and build a sense of community and common purpose.

Solace led a partnership of 15 organisations that designed a holistic, three-pronged project that would map services and identify gaps in provision, create an online Centre of Excellence to share solutions and good practice, and establish a £300,000 grants scheme for local initiatives created by women, for women. They then submitted an ambitious funding bid to the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, and the Labyrinth Partnership was born, at a cost of £1.6m.

Over 18 months, the Labyrinth project delivered a huge range of activities that helped to connect groups in the sector, boost their capacity to support service users, and gave them a stronger voice in local strategies and decision-making. Charities such as Rights of Women and Working Chance delivered training, while organisations including Pregnant Then Screwed and Pankhurst Trust Manchester Women’s Aid used grants to train or set up new teams.

The project smashed all its targets, delivering training to more than 1,200 individuals and engaging almost 35,000 women across the three strands of work. The Centre of Excellence has had over 1,000 unique users and will continue to be a central resource for groups in the sector. In all eight project areas, activities are being sustained or creating a legacy.

Charity Awards judge Sarah Ellis commended the charity’s partnership working and its emphasis on evaluation and learning.

Judge Karin Woodley said it was exciting to see a practice-based charity taking on a sector-wide capacity-building role in such a fragmented sector, and delivering it so effectively.

CC Reg no. 1082450

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