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Shining a Light on How You Can Help

February 28th, 2016 | Posted by Emma Martin in News - (1 Comments)

 

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We need as many people as possible to get involved with the #shinealight campaign to:

  • shine a light on the extent of child poverty in our borough, the complex reasons for it (including domestic abuse) and the effect of poverty on children;
  • shine a light on the ways Bromley Brighter Beginnings can bring help and hope;
  • celebrate people who shine a light to others

 #shinealight

You can use this hashtag on any social media to link to any of BBB’s blogposts on the issues, or to talk about people who shine a light in your life. Please take photos of yourself or your colleagues, friends or family holding up a card explaining why you are supporting this campaign. And please mention or tag us whenever you can! Here are some examples of wordings you can use if you wish:

“I am Shining a Light on the extent of child poverty in the UK, which affects 28% of children”

“I am Shining a Light on the increase in child poverty in the UK; 4.3 million children will live in poverty by 2020”

“I am Shining a Light on child poverty because it affects children for the rest of their lives, limits their educational achievement and earning potential as adults, increases their risk of ill-health and reduces their life expectancy”

“I am Shining a Light on the cost of child poverty, estimated to be at least £29 billion a year”

“I am Shining a Light on child poverty in the London Borough of Bromley; in some parts of the borough 32% of children live in poverty”

“I am Shining a Light on domestic abuse, because two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week”

“I am Shining a Light on domestic abuse because one in seven children have lived with domestic violence at some point in their childhood”

“I am Shining a Light on domestic abuse because it affects children in many ways including anxiety, depression, aggression, low self-esteem, self-harming and alcohol and/or drug abuse”

“I am Shining a Light on domestic abuse because in a high proportion of cases, children are also being abused, physically or sexually, by the same person”

“I am Shining a Light on Bromley Brighter Beginnings because they support hundreds of families in need every year”

These are just suggestions; please feel free to write your own! For more information and facts on Child Poverty visit the Action on Child Poverty website; for more about domestic abuse, please see the Women’s Aid site.

Thank you.

 

www.bromleybrighterbeginnings.org.uk

www.facebook.com/groups/bromleybrighterbeginnings

@BrighterB

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Shining a Light on Bromley Women’s Aid

February 22nd, 2016 | Posted by Emma Martin in News - (0 Comments)

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Many of the women we support live in domestic violence refuges in Bromley, which are run by Bromley Women’s Aid (BWA). But according to Constanze Sen, CEO of BWA, resources are so stretched that for every one woman who is given a place in refuge in Bromley, ten are turned away.

Although BWA receives statutory funding, this has been cut significantly over the last few years and is likely to be cut still further. In the three years we have been operational, we have seen BWA being forced to make refuge officers redundant, putting even more pressure on the remaining staff already doing a low paid job that is very demanding and often harrowing. And on a national level, the number of refuge providers went down from 149 to 112 between 2010 and 2014 due to lack of funding.

BWA has had become more and more reliant on charitable income, and the support of local organisations such as BBB.

Here are just some of the ways in which Bromley Women’s Aid has asked BBB to help over the last three years:

  • by supplying formula to babies living in refuge. Most women moving into refuge are completely reliant on state benefits to survive, and pay their rent to BWA. There is often a delay between a family arriving in refuge and the mother’s benefits starting to come through – with even more delay if the abusive ex-partner has hidden her documentation to make escape difficult. Whilst the refuge officers help as much as they can, this can mean families living for several weeks without the resources to even buy milk for a baby;
  • BWA is legally obliged to supply all new families coming into refuge with new bedding – but the cuts have meant they struggle to find the money to cover it. BBB is currently helping BWA by buying some new bedding for families living in refuge;
  • to fund events such as cinema trips in the school holidays. For a total cost of around £20, thanks to the Empire Juniors film showings, BBB has arranged a morning out for several families with young children, who have really appreciated the change of scenery. We have also funded excursions such as a coach trip to Danson Park, which meant that the young children (and the exhausted mums!) were able to enjoy a day out in the park without a long journey on public transport before and after;

I am attaching the article based on Constanze Sen’s interview with the Daily Mail last November. It’s not light reading, but please do read it and share this post as widely as possible to help to #shinealight on the issues raised. Thank you.

Daily Mail article on Bromley Women’s Aid

 

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Shining a Light on Volunteering for BBB

February 18th, 2016 | Posted by Emma Martin in News - (0 Comments)

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Everyone who works for BBB does so on a completely voluntary basis. We all have young children, as well as various other commitments (like jobs!) and it can be a challenge to fit it all in. But we do it because there are families in this area who are seriously struggling and we have seen time and time again that the help we give them makes a difference. If you have ever wondered what our work involves, here is volunteer Lisa Warren describing a day in the life of a BBB volunteer:

I have two young boys, am active in my older son’s PTA, work 3 days a week in London, and have a husband who is away 50% of the time, so on paper I shouldn’t have time to volunteer for BBB, but it’s one thing I make sure I find the time to do, because it’s so enormously enjoyable and rewarding. So in a strange way being a volunteer is actually “me” time.

Referrals can come in at any time and every one of them is different. I try to make sure I do no more than one at a time, although I do sometimes help out in emergencies. Typically once I take a referral on I will try, where possible, to speak to the mum and go through the list of what’s needed plus the practicalities of delivery. I often find that the parents are reluctant to ask for “too much” but when I speak to them it transpires they do really need more than was originally asked for. And I also sometimes have to reassure them about the “charity” aspect, because understandably many of the people I have dealt with feel embarrassed and upset to be in so much need. I tell them that it’s just as if the items are being passed to them by a friend of a friend – and that they are probably doing that person a favour taking stuff of their hands.

We have a fantastic group of people who follow us on the Facebook page, and quite often I will have to request specific items that we don’t have in storage. I am always amazed by the instant response and quite jaw-dropping generosity of our supporters; I have always been offered whatever is needed (and often in duplicate). Depending on the item and location, sometimes people drop things off at my house or sometimes I will go and collect from them. This has led to some funny situations where I’ve rendezvoused with people outside coffee shops and alike. I also usually do a trip to our storage facility to make use of the things we already have in stock.

Deliveries can vary: sometimes I go directly to a person’s house or sometimes it’s via a health visitor, refuge officer, midwife or other professional. When I do make deliveries directly it’s always great to see and hear first-hand what a difference this will make.

Being a volunteer for BBB is genuinely a pleasure and I would encourage anyone who has some spare time to give it a go and join our team of what my (superhero-obsessed) son calls “power mummies”! I hope that over time, my children will pick up on what I’m doing and learn the importance of helping others.

 

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Shining a Light on How BBB Was Born

February 10th, 2016 | Posted by Emma Martin in News - (0 Comments)

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Just over 5 years ago, I read an article in an NCT magazine about a group of volunteers in Staffordshire who were creating packs of essential items for destitute new mums. These included things like newborn nappies, clothes for the baby and sanitary towels for the mum. Having just given birth to my second child, I found the idea of someone struggling to buy themselves some sanitary towels really shocking.

I realised that I was in a great position to set up something similar in this area, as I had just taken on the role of Chair of NCT Bromley and Chislehurst. At first, therefore, Bromley Brighter Beginnings was part of the local NCT branch, and NCT provided valuable support with our initial applications for funding. However it soon became apparent that we couldn’t sustain the project for long unless we became a stand-alone organisation; we just couldn’t get any funding while we were part of a national charity.

I contacted the volunteers in Staffordshire and found that, sadly, their project was folding due to lack of funds. They were, however, able to send me some detailed guidance notes about their project, which really helped. I wrote to all the local organisations and charities I could think of who might want to make referrals to us. This led to meetings with the Chief Midwife at the PRUH and the manager of the Bromley Children Project. These gave us a much clearer idea of the kind of issues families living in poverty faced in this particular area. The BCP manager, who has since retired, was very encouraging – she believed passionately that if people in crisis receive support, they are more likely to go on to become financially independent and to contribute more to society in the longer term.

We had only received £500 of funding at this point, from the company of a local mum who had volunteered for NCT. But we decided it was enough to get started. We set up a basic website, with the help of an NCT volunteer (now our Head of Design). Through a friend who worked for the police, I was put in contact with the coordinator for domestic abuse in the area, and she circulated details of the service we were offering, with a link to the site, to service providers throughout the borough.  A couple of days later, we received our first referral – Bromley Women’s Aid needed a cot for a baby who was arriving in refuge that night.

I posted a message on a local NCT forum and someone who was about to move house offered to donate a cot. I carried it to the refuge – and our first referral was complete. We were very short of volunteers at this point, but we set up the Facebook group and started inviting people to join. After a few months, a few more people had started volunteering, and after receiving some more funding from a company, we held an official launch party at the Cinnamon Club in Sundridge Park. Lots of local health professionals came along, which really helped to spread the word.

Since then, BBB has grown organically. Health professionals have passed on our details to their colleagues. Supporters have invited their friends to join our Facebook group (now nearly 2,000 people). Volunteers have come and gone but we have a steady team now of 25. All of our funding has come from corporate donations, and individual donations. We often receive requests from professionals in neighbouring boroughs, particularly Lewisham and Croydon, which we are sadly unable to take on. But we are more than happy to offer guidance and support to anyone who would like to set up a Brighter Beginnings project in another borough; just contact us by email: bromleybrighterbeginnings@gmail.com.

 

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Many of the women who are referred to Bromley Brighter Beginnings are survivors of domestic abuse, but there are many other circumstances in which our help is requested. One case with which we dealt that I will never forget involved a young woman who had applied for asylum in the UK.

She spoke no English and had just given birth at the PRUH. We rarely know much about the background of the people referred to us, but we were advised that all this mum had was £35 and a small bag of personal items that she had brought with her to the hospital. She had a friend in the area, who spoke her language and with whom she had been staying, but she would not be allowed to stay there once the baby was born. We were also told that the Home Office was arranging emergency accommodation for her and the baby, but that nobody knew when, or where it would be.

The midwives were trying their best to help this young woman. They had barely been able to communicate with her while she was in labour, as the translation service offered was over the telephone by appointment only. The midwives were also in the frustrating position of having lots of their own items that they were willing to donate, such as clothes for the newborn baby, but they were not allowed to under “conflict of interest” rules.

Fortunately BBB was able to help, because we were an outside agency and not restricted by the same regulations. Within a few hours of receiving the referral, we delivered various items to the young woman on the ward: clothes, nappies and toiletries for the baby, a Moses basket and some bedding, some formula and some longlife groceries. The baby had been born with some physical problems, which made me wonder what had happened to that young woman while she was pregnant, and why she had ended up in such a desperate situation.

Two days later, we heard that staff from the Home Office had arrived at the hospital and taken the mum and her newborn baby to a hostel in another borough. They were now out of our area, and the woman was effectively removed from the only friend she had, and the only person who could translate for her. Living in poverty with a newborn baby is isolating enough, but to be unable to communicate with other people must have made that isolation intense. One of the hardest things about volunteering for BBB is wishing that we could do more to help. But at least we were able to do something to make her feel, in that moment of crisis, just a few hours after giving birth, that she was not completely alone.

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Although Bromley Women’s Aid (which runs the six domestic violence refuges in the area) receives statutory funding, this has been cut significantly over the last few years and is likely to be cut still further. BWA has therefore become more and more reliant on charitable income, and the support of local organisations such as BBB.

Here are just some of the ways in which Bromley Women’s Aid has asked BBB to help over the last three years:

  • By supplying formula to babies living in refuge. Most women moving into refuge are completely reliant on state benefits to survive (and pay their rent to BWA). There is often a delay between a family arriving in refuge and the mother’s benefits starting to come through – with even more delay if the abusive ex-partner has hidden her documentation to make escape difficult. Whilst the refuge officers help as much as they can, this can mean families living for several weeks without the resources to even buy milk for a baby;
  • By supplying bedding for families living in refuge. BWA is legally obliged to supply all new families coming into refuge with new bedding – but the cuts have meant they struggle to find the money to cover it. BBB is currently helping BWA by buying some new bedding for families with young children;
  • By funding events such as cinema trips in the school holidays. A family film session at the weekend with Empire Juniors costs just £1.25 per person, but this is something that BWA does not have spare funds for. For a total cost of around £20, BBB has arranged a morning out for several families with young children, who have really appreciated the change of scenery. We have also funded a coach trip to Danson Park, which meant that the young children (and the exhausted mums!) were able to enjoy a day out in the park without a long journey on public transport before and after.

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shinealight2Do you suspect that someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse?

The charity Refuge advises that people who are being abused may:

  • Seem afraid or anxious to please their partner
  • Receive frequent, harassing phone calls from their partner
  • Talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness
  • Frequently miss work, school, or social occasions, without explanation
  • Dress in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors)
  • Be restricted from seeing family and friends
  • Rarely go out in public without their partner
  • Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car
  • Have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident
  • Be depressed, anxious, or suicidal

If you do suspect that someone you know is being abused, Refuge suggests that you:

  • Ask if something is wrong
  • Express concern
  • Listen and validate
  • Offer help
  • Support his or her decisions

and that it is important not to:

  • Wait for him or her to come to you
  • Judge or blame
  • Pressure him or her
  • Give advice
  • Place conditions on your support

Advice can be sought 24 hours a day on the National Domestic Violence Helpline 0800 2000 247 (freephone). You can also call Bromley Women’s Aid Monday to Friday between 9am and 4.30pm or email info@bromleywa.org.uk.

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Shining a Light on Domestic Abuse

January 11th, 2016 | Posted by Emma Martin in News - (0 Comments)

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The nominations are now open for the Bromley Mums Awards 2016, so please start sending in details of the mums you know who deserve recognition for their efforts. Being nominated for, and possibly winning, an award really means a lot to people. The awards ceremony, organised by Allsorts Parent and Toddler Group and Bromley Brighter Beginnings, will be held on 3rd March 2016 at Bromley Town Church and is being sponsored by intu Bromley and Boppin Tots. For more details, and to make your nominations, visit: www.bromleytownchurch.com/bromleymumsawards

At the awards ceremony, Bromley Brighter Beginnings will be launching a campaign which we are calling “Shine a Light”. In the weeks leading up to the awards ceremony, we will be highlighting several specific issues that we encounter regularly at BBB, and raising awareness about the reality of parenting for some women on your very doorstep. The first issue we are shining a light on is domestic abuse.

Shining a Light on Domestic Abuse

Around half of the women who are referred to Bromley Brighter Beginnings for help are survivors of domestic abuse: either living in one of Bromley’s six domestic violence refuges, or trying to get back on their feet in the local community after leaving the refuge system. Bromley Women’s Aid houses around 35 women and 55 children in Bromley at any one time, with additional support to other women through their outreach services.

What is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse occurs when one person in an intimate relationship tries to dominate and control the other person. It occurs between heterosexual couples and same-sex couples, and between couples of any age, ethnic backgrounds and economic levels. It is more common for women to be the victims of domestic abuse, but this is not always the case. Abuse does not have to be violent; it can also be emotional, psychological, financial or sexual. Just last month, a new crime of “controlling behaviour” was announced by the home secretary Theresa May; this new offence is intended to protect victims from extreme psychological and emotional abuse and will carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine.

Some facts about domestic abuse (from the Refuge website):

* 2 women are killed every week in England and Wales by a partner or former partner;

* On average, a woman is assaulted 35 times before her first call to the police;

* 25% of children in the UK have been exposed to domestic abuse;

* In 90% of domestic violence incidents in family households, children were in the same or the next room;

* 62% of children in households where domestic violence is happening are also directly harmed;

* 30% of domestic violence either starts or will intensify during pregnancy;

* Foetal morbidity from violence is more prevalent than gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia; and

* One in four women in the UK will suffer domestic abuse (one in three, globally).

Where to Get Help  

If you or someone you know is in imminent danger, call the police on 999.

Otherwise call 0800 2000 247, the 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline (Freephone), run by Women’s Aid and Refuge.

In the London Borough of Bromley, domestic violence refuges are run by Bromley Women’s Aid. To contact them direct, call 020 8313 9303 Monday to Friday 9am-4.30pm or email info@bromleywa.org.uk. Visits to their website – www.bromleywa.org.uk – can be hidden.

Support is also available for male victims of domestic abuse; contact the ManKind Intitiative 01823 334244 http://new.mankind.org.uk.

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Christmas Card Campaign

December 16th, 2015 | Posted by Emma Martin in News - (0 Comments)

Carol singingIf you are making a donation to charity rather than buying Christmas cards this year, please consider choosing Bromley Brighter Beginnings. We now have a Just Giving page which makes donating easier than ever, and we can also claim Gift Aid on your donation if you are a UK tax payer. If you would prefer to send a cheque, please email us at bromleybrighterbeginnings@gmail.com for further details. Thank you!

http://www.justgiving.com/Bromley-brighterbeginnings

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New phone number for BBB

October 8th, 2015 | Posted by Emma Martin in News - (0 Comments)

BBBlogoPlease note that Bromley Brighter Beginnings has a new phone number: 07507 370736. The old number is no longer used for BBB business. Thank you!

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