‘They rebuild you here’: Vital women’s service in Brighton wins funding

MPs Lloyd Russell Moyle and Caroline Lucas with Lisa Dando and Justice Minister Edward Argar at the Brighton Women's Centre
MPs Lloyd Russell Moyle and Caroline Lucas with Lisa Dando and Justice Minister Edward Argar at the Brighton Women's Centre

Vulnerable women in Brighton will continue to get the support they need thanks to a £50,000 one-off grant from The Ministry of Justice.

Justice Minister Edward Argar visited the centre at Richmond Place on Thursday (February 7) with local MPs Caroline Lucas and Lloyd Russell-Moyle.

In 2018, Brighton Women’s Centre was forced to close vital counselling services due to a lack of funding.

More than 500 women use Brighton Women’s Centre which offers a safe space to women facing a range of issues from trauma, abuse, homelessness and addiction.

Krystal Shirley moved down to Brighton with her five-year-old daughter to escape a life of domestic violence.

She said: “It was a brave move as I didn’t know anyone down here. I made some bad choices with good intentions.”

She was referred to Brighton Women’s Centre after she was sentenced by The Magistrates’ Court for stealing cushions and blankets from a homeware shop where she worked.

Krystal said: “It’s the first place that’s been supportive and non-judgemental, open to hearing you.

“Marion my caseworker is a superhero, she’s like a mum and I’ve never known a mum, she still takes my calls even though I left the centre in 2012.

“They don’t just signpost and say go to Rise or Pavilion, they go with you to interviews, I’ve never felt that support before.

“You go to the doctors, they prescribe you antibiotics, here they prescribe you positivity.”

Another service user suffering from psychotic episodes and the long-term effects of domestic abuse said:

“They do small things to make you feel accepted. They shampooed and conditioned my hair, when you’re depressed you forget self-care, how to be positive.

“I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for this place, when I’m having a psychotic episode I run in front of cars. I had to be resuscitated on the beach.

“Can you imagine being sentenced, someone telling you you’re guilty? I had all my dignity stripped away. They rebuild you here – Marion is not just a caseworker, she’s a healer, she’s made me want my life.”

Lisa Dando, director of Brighton Women’s Centre, said: “The funding will enable us to develop more women-only hubs, increase staffing capacity and have hot food.

“We want to abolish short sentencing for women. When mothers go into prison, 95 per cent of children lose their family home. When fathers go into prisons only five per cent of children lose their home.

“That’s a crucial gender inequality. Who’s being punished here, it’s the child as well, you have to look at the whole family.”