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  • Date: 16/10/2023

Honeycomb Group celebrates domestic abuse support project that helped over 100 children and young people

This month we're celebrating a project that supported over 100 children and young people impacted by domestic abuse in Staffordshire. 

The Opening Doors project launched across the safe accommodation services of our domestic abuse specialist, Glow, in 2021. It was made possible thanks to BBC Children in Need funding and support from the Arnold Clark Community Fund.

The unique project provided support for not only children and young people, but their parents too. This included one-to-one support sessions, group activities, days out, messy play and other creative sessions to improve wellbeing and make sure children have fun.

Over two years the project worked with 123 children through 384 sessions. Broken down, this includes 164 group activities, such as crafting and gardening, 165 direct support sessions and 55 sessions for parents living in refuge, such as childcare or parenting support.

Children and Young Person's Domestic Abuse Practitioner Elise Howle worked on the project over the two years. She said: “What has made the project so special, and so successful, is that it’s not just for children and young people. While that is a huge focus, and we have lots of support that is specially tailored for them, it’s also for parents.

“This includes being able to provide childcare so parents can attend important appointments, or just take some time for themselves and engage in self-care.

“The project also taught parents how to play with their children and have fun. If you’ve experienced an abusive relationship, that won’t have been a priority before.”

Children supported by the project say 'thank you' to BBC Children In Need

Service Manager Donna Boon manages Glow’s Stoke-on-Trent refuge and saw first-hand the impact of the project on the children and young people living there.

She added: “As a domestic abuse support provider, we feel incredibly proud to have delivered the Opening Doors project. As an organisation we have always recognised children and young people as victims of domestic abuse in their own right, not just witnesses.

“I’m thrilled with how successful the programme has been. Not only has it helped children and young people to relax and have fun, but it’s also improved their personal skills such as confidence and self-esteem. We’re excited to build on the work of the project and continue to deliver support that is tailored to each individual child and young person.”

One of the children who took part in the project was 12-year-old Alana, who lived at Glow's refuge with her mum. Her name has been changed to protect her identity. Elise guided Alana through her one-to-one support sessions and shared her story:

“When I first met Alana, she told me that she had been struggling with her feelings because of the domestic abuse she had witnessed. She found it difficult to talk about the abuse she’d seen and was struggling with having contact with the perpetrator. She told me she felt ‘trapped’ – she didn’t know what to do with the feelings she’d been keeping in. Her self-esteem and confidence had been impacted too.

“We explored different topics, including feelings, safety planning, safe people, family changes, healthy and unhealthy relationships and coping techniques. As we spoke about these topics, we related them back to Alana’s own experiences and worked through the feelings she had as a result of these.

“I worked closely with social care across two local authorities, health services and two schools. While Alana was living in refuge with us, she made the huge transition from primary to secondary school. This is a huge change for any young person, let alone one living in a domestic abuse refuge and going through such big personal changes. Working with other agencies meant that I could make sure Alana’s voice was heard by everyone and her wishes could be adhered to.”

After working with Alana for a few months, Elise said she ‘engaged amazingly well’.

“There was such a change in her. Her confidence improved and she had a more hopeful, optimistic outlook. Other staff in the refuge started to notice it too. Her demeanour, and how she presented herself, completely shifted. It was all thanks to her newfound sense of confidence.

“As we approached the end of our one-to-one sessions, I spoke to Alana about how she was feeling. She told me that she felt brighter and happier, which was incredible to hear. Alana’s mum started to notice too. She told me, on multiple occasions, how positive the change had been for her daughter. She was more confident and more willing to talk about and express her feelings."

Click here to discover more about Glow’s services for children and young people.