Staying agile to better support vulnerable women

Jul 21, 2020

Across the UK both individuals and organisations have been deeply affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Beyond the Streets has a national network of affiliate projects that support women and girls in a variety of situations. These projects have direct understanding of how lockdown has impacted on the most vulnerable individuals and by necessity have had to stay agile in the way they offer services to those they support. For women caught up in prostitution, it has been harder to access face-to-face support. For organisations, it had been hard to offer the support in their usual ways. Our affiliate projects that work directly with women in outreach situations have found themselves having to communicate with women through different means, such as text, phone calls and Zoom.

This month, our projects came together for an online training afternoon which allowed them to develop further skills in telephone communication. Miriam from Beyond Support – who has been offering telephone support to women looking to find routes out of the sex industry since 2015 – led training for those who are moving from face to face to telephone communications. 27 participants from 15 different projects attended the webinar. 
The session was wide-ranging with projects being encouraged to connect with the why’ of the support they offer, to bring clarity and foster trust. Miriam stressed the importance of working alongside women and empowering them. This trauma-informed approach – where women need to feel safe and trusting before real change can be found – is more challenging on the phone, so she talked about ways to communicate when body language and gesture is not available. Using role play the participants practised asking open-ended questions and using reflective and affirming listening.  
It was moving to hear the passion that all the affiliate projects have for women and to hear specifically how Beyond Support work to help women see just how valuable they are. Other important takeaways from the session were how to work with distressed callers, and how those supporting vulnerable women can think about self-care and boundaries, to avoid burnout. 
Beyond the Streets hopes to offer further webinar training to its network of over 40 affiliate projects during the coming year.