Sexual, domestic and emotional abuse tends to hide in the shadows of our communities. The NSPCC reported 57,000 children requiring protection in 2015. Last year, in Oxfordshire alone there were 4312 reports of sexual violence, and over 46,000 cases of domestic abuse. The abuse can vary in duration, but the emotional scarring tends to last a lifetime and many problems don’t surface until later on in life. These problems arise in many forms such as mental health issues; unemployment; difficulty forming relationships, and drug and alcohol abuse. In effect, these people can easily drop out of our communities.
These psychological problems are often deeply ingrained. Currently the NHS will offer a set number of free counselling appointments and these often only scratch the surface. There is a huge demand for free longer-term support.
Dealing with the mental health side of the problem is vital. However, this will take time and there is a real need for these people to gain practical skills to deal with certain situations they often find themselves in. For example, one of our clients was trapped in an abusive relationship. The counselling and support we provided could help her cope but it was the skills, confidence and knowledge about how to leave a relationship like this that made the biggest impact in her life.
At Clean Slate, we aim to provide an integrated approach, dealing with emotional support as well as teaching practical skills to cope with day-to-day life.
We are currently the only service in Oxfordshire that provides long-term counselling. As a result of this we have built up working relationships with local professionals. We are now accepting referrals from doctors, mental health teams, the police, social services as well as self-referrals.
Each client has an initial assessment. A personal pathway is drawn up, which sets achievable goals and this is then continually assessed throughout the process. One to one counselling is provided alongside enrolment on certain programmes depending on the specific needs of our client. These programmes often deal with very specific problems but will broadly fit into four categories: -
Improving health and wellbeing.
Improving integration into society.
Increasing personal safety and perception of safety.
Improving experience of the criminal justice system.
We continually monitor user satisfaction and outcomes. We also follow the Charity evaluation monitoring programme. This allows us to review our current procedures, adapt them and evolve new ones.
The team at Clean Slate is hugely passionate about helping our clients. Many have been abused personally and so can understand and empathise with what our clients have gone and are going through. Passion alone is not enough and we have 3 qualified counsellors and over 20 volunteers helping.
One of our main short-term aims is to increase the skills within our team, branching out as the charity grows. We aim to improve skills in social media; media training; management and current counselling practices. We already have people specialised in specific techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness behavioural therapy and aim to increase our numbers in such fields.
Progress is often slow with such complex emotional issues and takes time for results to be seen. We saw over 100 people last year who all received support and counselling. We helped 5 people get back into paid work and another 8 start volunteering posts. 9 women left abusive relationships and 12 completed a confidence-building course. Many of our achievements are hard to box into a simple statistic. Small steps like the relief given by being believed should never be underestimated on the road to progress.