Friday, 22 November 2019

Winter Nights


I am writing this just before pulling on my warm waterproof to join A Way Out’s evening outreach team.  Weekly our teams reach out to women on the streets of Stockton and Middlesbrough.  As we prepare on this November night it is dark, cold and wet and we know we will come across women who, right here in our Teesside towns, are exchanging sex just for a roof over their heads, a sofa to sleep on… worse still some will be sleeping rough, often to escape violence and abuse.


In order to address this issue A Way Out is one of 29 charities across England to receive funding from Homeless Link’s 'Ending Women's Homelessness grants programme, funded by the Government’s Tampon Tax Fund. The funding will enable us to access and secure safe accommodation for each woman, away from harm and abuse; help the women to maintain their tenancy and improve our ability to connect with homeless women. Homeless Link's Assistant Director of Practice and Partnerships, Tasmin Maitland commented “We are delighted to be able to award A Way Out a grant that will have a real impact on the support that women experiencing homelessness in Stockton and Middlesbrough receive, and ultimately contribute to ending women’s homelessness for good.”

This grant will make a valuable contribution towards our work… but there is still more to do.  You can help us to support these women and young girls, especially during these winter months by donating non perishable food, hats and gloves, or consider A Way Out as part of your Christmas gifting by texting AWAYOUT £2, £5, £10 (or an amount of your choice) to 70085.

Friday, 25 October 2019

Being thankful


Being thankful is a really beneficial habit to practice.  Mother Theresa is quoted as saying “be thankful for the small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”  One of the strengths in the support A Way Out’s provides to clients lies in our ‘asset based’ approach – identifying and appreciating the positive aspects of an individual’s character and building upon these attributes to empower and facilitate personal change -  transforming lives and facilitating freedom from addiction, abuse and life limiting behaviours.

Identifying, daily, just one thing to be grateful for can bring a real sense of achievement and joy – being thankful can change perspective and help to put other issues into context.  Adopting an ‘attitude of gratitude’ is a great way show appreciation of self and others - the benefits of thankfulness are infectious!

Each year A Way Out dedicates a whole evening to being thankful – to reflect upon the successes of the past 12 months, appreciate the support the charity has received from others and the support the service has provided to clients.  

This year A Way Out’s Thanksgiving event is taking place on Monday 28th October, 7.00pm at Stockton Parish Church and we invite you to come along and experience the benefits of thankfulness for yourselves and receive our appreciation for the support you may have provided to the organisation over the past year – whether that has been by donating food, toiletries, funds or volunteering time – each contribution has made a huge difference in the lives of women, young people and families we support across Teesside.

You may wish to consider supporting the organisation over the coming 12 months and this can be as simple as donating a few tins of food or bottles of shampoo; putting aside some time to volunteer with our services or even sending a quick text donation by texting  ‘AWAYOUT 5’ to 70085.  Our service and clients are so very grateful for every element of support received.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Simple gestures

I received a personal card through the post this week from a friend who I hadn’t seen for a while.  She wrote that she wanted me to know that I had just popped into her thoughts and that she was thinking about me.  I was touched to receive this sentiment and to know that I had been important enough for her to find a card, put pen to paper and walk to a post box.  A simple gesture with a powerfully positive impact, with no strings attached and no demand for reciprocation.  The rest of my day was a normal one - some things went well and some things went not so well - but within the small moment of receiving and opening the card my spirits lifted, I smiled and I felt loved.

For many of the female clients working with A Way Out’s Liberty and Blossom services it helps to know that our workers and volunteers are offering unconditional support and that as an organisation we have ’love’ at the very core of our values.  We also actively encourage peer support to embed this culture - mutual support amongst our wellness sessions is a key element to encouraging a more positive outlook.  Recently within these wellness sessions our clients have enjoyed creating beautiful cards and small gifts portraying positive messages as encouragement for others.  In the coming months we hope that these items will be available to purchase to raise funds for A Way Out and to help us to bring a little love to the streets of Stockton.  Look out for further information about this on A Way Out’s facebook page and website www.awayout.co.uk.

A Way Out is also currently recruiting a team of volunteer Community Fundraisers to support the organisation and help to ‘spread the love’.  Full training and support will be provided.  For more information and an application form: https://www.awayout.co.uk/get-involved/jobs/

Friday, 30 August 2019

Monitoring and evaluation


is a phrase that causes even the most diligent of us to experience that sinking feeling with thoughts of statistics, identification of outputs and outcomes (and the difference between the two!).  However, the process is essential for the success of any organisation or service…. indeed even the bible tells us ‘test everything and hold fast to what is good’ (1 Thes 5:21).

A Way Out has been continually monitoring the delivery of our Liberty and Blossom Services adjusting and adapting support to ensure that we are meeting the real needs and issues of our clients and effecting positive change.  This month we held two important Evaluation Events sharing our findings with partner agencies to raise awareness and advocate for the specific and often unique needs of the women we support – ie young women at-risk of exploitation, and women whose lives have already been impacted by historic trauma which has directed their entry into survival sex work.

The evaluation depicts A Way Out’s clients as remarkably resilient women, for many daily survival demands a huge degree of personal strength.  A Way Out’s approach is trauma informed and asset based – we ‘test everything and hold fast to what is good’ – A Way Out acts as a ‘critical adult’ supporting the women to identify negatives, and recognise, embrace and employ their inner abilities and strengths, focusing upon positive attributes to ensure confident future hope.  The evaluation results show clearly the effectiveness of the support provided by our Liberty and Blossom services which is best described in the words of the clients themselves – 
I love coming here, I was sick of my life, coming to A Way Out is great' 
'I had no confidence, I felt incapable – not now though because of Blossom – the work we do, learning new things, seeing things from different perspectives'  
'the service has made such a difference to my life, honestly, I’m a different person'

To support our work either by volunteering or fundraising, please go to www.awayout.co.uk or contact info@awayout.co.uk / 01642 655071.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Graduation Time


With graduation ceremonies taking place across the country, A Way Out’s Liberty Service held its own graduation for women attending our drop-in who completed a 6-week Empowerment Programme. 

The drop-in specifically supports vulnerable women facing a range of difficulties and circumstances and this intensive programme focussed specifically upon boosting self-esteem and strengthening the ‘inner adult’ through identifying personal strengths and assets. 

The programme began by mapping individual timelines, focussing upon past, present and future.  The women acquired skills in cooking with ‘store cupboard staples’ – one successful graduate commented, ‘I always thought that eating healthy was too expensive’ but with newly acquired knowledge and skills this has now become part of her everyday life.


Alongside self-empowerment activities, the programme also focussed upon the needs of others experienced through the benefits of peer support and raised awareness on specific issues such as women lost to honour based violence. 

A session entitled ‘Beautiful Minds’ encouraged women to identify and speak out five beautiful things about themselves, for some, due to past experiences and trauma, this was one of the most difficult sessions.  The women then identified five beautiful things to do for others and reported back the following week.

The programme concluded with goal planning incorporating strategies to overcome personally identified obstacles such as breathing techniques to assist in anxious situations.

At the graduation celebration many women feedback improved mental health since attending the programmme and identified future aspirations including the hope of gaining food hygiene and first aid qualifications.  A Way Out’s Liberty team have sprung into action arranging for these courses to take place in the coming months.

The success of the programme could not have been achieved without volunteer support and essential food donations – for which the women who took part are extremely grateful.

If you would like to know more about the work of A Way Out please go to www.awayout.co.uk, or contact 01642 655071 or info@awayout.co.uk.


Friday, 5 July 2019

The bigger picture...

It’s good to step back to look at the ‘bigger picture’… even better when there’s an opportunity to influence this on a national level.  This month A Way Out’s CEO, Sarah McManus, met in London in partnership with 5 other charities with Amber Rudd, Secretary of State and Will Quince, Minister for Family Support, Housing & Child Maintenance.  This invitation came following Sarah providing evidence in Westminster at a Select Committee discussing issues around universal credit and direct links to the increase in women involved in survival sex work.

A Way Out was invited in recognition of its expertise in this area and the part the charity plays in reshaping and bringing about change for vulnerable women, young people and families in this region.  We are proud that A Way Out ensures the voices of those we work with in Tees Valley are heard and can be instrumental in influencing the development of this system.

Collectively several concerns were raised including the delay between application and receipt of money and the impact of sanctions, demonstrating the difficulty for people to survive during these periods – a current direct influence upon offending rates and women moving into sex work.  Sarah also emphasised the complexity of the system for those already struggling with a range of challenges and vulnerabilities and this was also reflected in other areas of the country.  Highlighting the wider context, attention was drawn to the increased need for emergency food parcels and the Children’s Society prediction that by 2020 there will be 5 million children living in poverty in the UK  - all underpinning and reinforcing the hardship that this benefit is causing to some of the most vulnerable in our community, the very people it was intended to provide a safety net against such poverty.

The hope is that this is the start of ongoing conversations with agencies and charities in order to positively improve the current system.

By supporting A Way Out and you too are making a difference and be part of the bigger picture.  Find us at  www.awayout.co.uk / info@awayout.co.uk / 01642 655071.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Mental Health Awareness


Last month A Way Out embraced Mental Health awareness with a 360 degree approach. 

Our Youth Service has focused upon wellness sessions delivered to local schools using soft meditation, creating ‘identity stones’ and encouraging peer support.  This has introduced the young people to effective coping strategies to support each individual in managing stress and anxieties related to personal and school life. 

A Way Out also supports female clients whose lives may have be affected by complex mental health needs some experiencing trauma generated from childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence and sexual exploitation.  We take a ‘trauma informed’ approach to support provided, with full consideration for each client’s individual experience of trauma and damage, as we support each to recovery and a future of security and hope. 

A Way Out also recognises that in order to provide effective support to clients and young people our staff and volunteers also should be well in themselves.  This month we devised and promoted a wellbeing programme for staff and volunteers detailing a menu of available options to support wellbeing at work including recognition of symptoms of stress and offering a selection of stress busting techniques provided by our in-house Psychotherapy Service.  Simple techniques such as concentrating on breathing, meditation, prayer, or undertaking a short distraction activity have a beneficial and calming influence and have proved useful for staff, volunteers and also with our clients.

A Way Out’s holistic approach contributes to the uniqueness of the charity which is celebrating 17th years of service this month.  This could not have been achieved without local financial and volunteer support for which we are extremely grateful. If you would like to be part of A Way Out’s future support please get in touch – info@awayout.co.uk, 01642 655071.


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