Monday, 31 October 2011

The REACH Project

Lisa Chou works for Women in Prison's Northern Services. She runs the REACH Project in HMP Foston Hall. Here is a snapshot of the work that she does :

The REACH project is a partnership project with Leiectershire probation trust , Derbyshire probation trust, Northamptonshire probation trust, Nottinghamshire probation trust, Lincolnshire Action trust, NACRO, Women IN Prison and Platform 51. This project is commissioned to deliver a programme of activities in the East Midlands region to support offender and ex offenders to obtain employment.  These activities will be funded by the European Social fund under the NOMs co financing arrangements. 
The REACH Project is a project designed to help offenders break down the barriers to employment or education. The project runs both in custody and in the community in different parts of the country.  Women in Prison deliver this project in HMP Foston Hall in Derbyshire for women in custody who are close to release.  Whilst the project helps prepare women for employment with support such as creating CVs, applying for jobs, practising interview techniques, providing disclosure sessions, offering support with college courses and so on, the project also helps with other areas such as debt/finance, housing, banking, and others.  For women in custody, there are often many barriers to employment and other priorities that must be addressed before they can consider employment and this is what the project aims to provide support with.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


Its Make Over day on Friday 21st October 2011, come along and enjoy a make over, and get some money saving beauty tips.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Look what we did last Summer !

During 2010, a series of consulatations were held with women who access the WomenMATTA Project,LBT groups, probation, and Drop In groups held at the Pankhurst Centre and with staff and counsellors from women's organisations that operate independently within the centre. The results showed that women expressed a need to communicate with other service users across different communities for support and friendship; to gain new skills that could support their future and to gain confidence to access new opportunities that may reduce reoffending.

Women with children expressed the need to gain and enhance skill in parenting and to support their children in homework and school life. Women from refugee and asylum seeker groups wished to attend events to assist in community cohesion and to dispel myths and stereotypes.

We delivered a series of workshops where the women had the opportunity to gain skills, develop decision making processes and the ability to work within a group, developing confidence and self esteem.

The workshops culminated in an entry at Manchester Pride 2010 and an exhibition of photos, costumes and the launch of this film.

We hope you enjoy it !

Diane's Journey - How I changed My Life

How I changed my Life
I left a very bad relationship after 11yrs which made me lose my daughter and my home. I was sleeping on friends sofas for about a year before I moved to Direct Access. I had been addicted to drugs for twenty odd years. I felt there was no point in me living at that time there was no hope.

I first met Tina the WomenMATTA volunteer when she came to the Drop-In at Direct Access. I had no confidence and couldn’t make eye contact with her because I wasn’t used to speaking to people due to the violence at home. I found Tina was a similar age to me. But the best part was that she just listened and didn’t judge. Tina told me what benefits and support I could get and this made me feel better knowing there were people out there to help me.

Tina encouraged me to come to the Drop In at the Pankhurst Centre but I was very nervous as I had not been out anywhere. As soon as I went to the drop in, all the volunteers such as Jill and Steph all made me very welcome and straight away I felt part of the group. Tina and I then sat down and did a plan about getting me the right support and I got loads.

Now I have "Team Diane" where I have a group of people such as Tina, Jill, Dionne and Steph who all help with different things. I have been helped going to the doctors and help with speaking up. I now have a carer that comes in everyday to help me and I am waiting to be moved into a new home.

I have not used drugs since May last year. I feel amazing and for the first time more human. I realise I started because of the death of my two children. I was avoiding feeling anything and used to numb the pain. But then my life got out of control. I know if I ever start using again I will lose everything I achieved.
I love seeing all the volunteers and know that if I need anything they are always there for me. I also feel I have friends now that make me feel good about myself for the first time. I love the fact we hang out after the Drop In at the coffee shop where we spend our time just laughing.

For the first time in my life I feel I belong somewhere and know that I going to be ok because of all the support and friendship here.
I would say to any woman out there who is struggling with drugs I would say DO IT, THERES MORE TO LIFE THAN DRUGS!!!

Girls and Gangs

In the news yesterday, we learned that the Deputy Children’s Commissioner is launching an inquiry into the sexual exploitation of girls by gangs. For many this comes as a huge shock, especially as we tend to think of gangs as an exclusively male environment. However, this isn’t the first time that sexual violence of women and girls by gang members has been recognised. Race on the Agenda recently produced a report called “Female Voice in Violence” where women and girls associated with gangs spoke openly about their experiences. This report showed that girls had frequently experienced sexual violence by boyfriends, as well as rival gangs.

At Women in Prison, we have long recognised the link between gang association and experiences of sexual and domestic violence, especially among young women. In collaboration with MMAGS (Manchester Multi-Agency Gang Service), our young women’s worker recently developed and delivered a tailor-made course for young women who were involved in gang activity. Structuring sessions around stereotypes of gang members, healthy relationships and self esteem, the course aimed to support young women to keep safe, achieve goals and feel valuable and important.

Feedback from the young women who attended the course has been incredible, as they found it was a great opportunity to discuss their understanding and experience of being associated with a gang with other young women in the same situation, and take part in activities to help them feel positive about themselves. Congratulations to the young women who completed the course successfully, and good luck to them for the future.

A massive thanks also goes to our volunteer Amanda, who supported the young women and gangs project. Without her enthusiasm and willingness to get involved the course would not have been the same!

My Volunteer Journey - The Bumpy Road

Volunteering with Women Matta has been a life changing experience for me. Like many women I previously went through a bad time due to various reasons which resulted in me being unable to work for a while. I wanted to regain some of my lost confidence.

I have been doing the Free Friday Drop-In since it began nearly 2 yrs ago and I have LOVED everything about it. From the chaos to insanity and back each week is new experience! The most important thing I gain from the work is being able to see women move on with their lives and its such a privilege to feel I have been able to contribute somewhat to this. 

At the Drop-In I usually undertake practical support work which can basically mean anything! From supporting someone with phone calls to benefit agencies, to referrals for a mental health assessment, but most importantly  being there, not judging, listening and accepting the women for who they are and where they are at on their journey.

I also undertake practical support work outside the Drop-In. This has involved, again, anything and everything. More recently I have worked closely with a woman who had been using class A drugs for twenty years, her life was very chaotic. She has now been able to access many services through our support. Her life has changed completely. Out having coffee with her and other women one day we were laughing at the usual banter when she turned to me and said.......this is better than getting high. It was all the reward a volunteer could ever need to carry on doing what I do!!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Free Friday Drop In

World Mental Health Day

Friday 14th October is World Mental Health Day. We have created a 'thought' tree which we will put up in the Pankhurst Centre to provoke discussion and debate and hopefully we will be able to dispel a few of the myths and negative stereotypes about mental health.

If you have experienced any mental health issues now or in the past, or if you work in the field of mental health and would like to share some of your thoughts or feelings on the subject, then just post your comments on this blog and we will add them to the tree.

Volunteer Opportunities

At WomenMATTA we have a wide variety of volunteer roles. If you are interested in volunteering some of your time or would just like a chat about some of the opportunities available, then contact Steph Champion, the Volunteer Coordinator at or on 0161 273 1518

Volunteer Role Description Outline – full descriptions available on request

Administrative Volunteer         Monday and Wednesday             10.00 – 13.00
Purpose:              To provide support to the volunteer coordinator to ensure an effective running of the volunteer programme.

·        Answering the phone and responding to queries
·        Sending out letters
·        Creating information files with leaflets
·        Maintaining our filing system
·        Using the database.

Court Volunteers                   Trafford Magistrates Court          Monday and Tuesday                                    09:30 – 12:30
Manchester Magistrates              Monday, Wednesday, Thursday               09:30 – 12:30
Purpose:          To provide support and information to women through the court process

·        Liaise with court and probation staff.
·        Assist women through court process by providing emotional support, helping fill in forms, attending court and giving out leaflets.
·        Positively promote WomenMATTA and provide information.
·        Keep court information pack up to date and stocked and signpost women to relevant services.

Free Friday Drop in Volunteer                  Fridays                                 12:30 – 16:30pm
Purpose:              To support and ensure the smooth running of the Free Friday drop in.

·        Attend the brief and de-brief
·        Meet and greet service user – give info on project to new service users, introduce to volunteers, show around the building, ensure sign in sheet completed
·        Book women into the practical support timetable
·        Keep drinks area well stocked, i.e. clean cups/glasses, jugs full, enough hot water/milk etc
·        Speak to service users – provide info on what’s happening at the drop in/forthcoming events/workshops
·        Assist in general cleaning of kitchen, during and after drop in as needed
·        Assist in activities and encourage service users to be involved in them

Free Friday Cooking volunteer                                 Fridays                 10.30am for lunch at 1.30pm      
Purpose:              To provide healthy meals for the Free Friday Drop in.

·        To create a menu ensuring this fits in with the Drop in ‘Cultural Calendar’ and create list of ingredients for each meal.
·        To shop for the food using WomenMATTA money. [If you have problems with mobility, we can provide support]
·        Attend the drop in brief and de-brief
·        To cook food at The Pankhurst Centre ready for 1.30 and serve it.
·        Clean up after the meal.

Free Friday Drop in Practical Support Volunteer                   Friday drop in    12:30 – 16:30
Purpose:              To provide pre-assessment practical support during the drop-in on Fridays

·        To attend the brief and de-brief.
·        Book women into the practical support timetable at the WomenMATTA drop in.
·        Provide emotional support and immediate advocacy for women through completing any practical tasks that are needed, e.g. form filling, signposting, and making phone calls
·        Make referrals to WomenMATTA ensuring WomenMATTA paperwork is completed.

Direct Access Practical Support Volunteer Mondays             13:30 – 16:00
Purpose:              To provide pre-assessment practical support for women during the drop in at Direct Access.

·        This is a challenging role through which you will support women within Direct Access.
·        Build professional relationships with women, providing practical support and making referrals to WomenMATTA.
·        Provide emotional support and immediate advocacy for women through completing any practical tasks that are needed, e.g. form filling, signposting, and making phone calls
·        Providing tea and coffee at DA
·        Communicate with staff at Direct Access and positively promote WomenMATTA.

Post-Assessment Support Volunteer                                Monday - Thursday         Flexible but must be able to commit to one morning/afternoon a week.
Purpose:              To provide specific support for women who have been assessed by our key workers and have specific requirements.

·        Complete specific tasks as specified by key workers.
·         Support our service and the woman by accompanying her to appointments and signposting to other agencies by supporting women to find courses, fill in forms and supporting them to make phone calls/write letters to other organisations.
·         Ensure that all the WomenMATTA paperwork is completed.

Clothing bank Volunteer                                Approx  2 hours/week, flexible
Purpose:              To organise the clothing bank for women who need free clothes

·        Sorting through new donations and discarding any soiled items.
·        To take items to local launderette for service wash
·        Tidying clothing bank, adding new items and displaying all attractively.

Probation – Women only Reporting Volunteer                  Thursdays 9.30 – 12.30
Purpose:              To provide specific practical support during the drop-in at women only probation reporting

·        Provide emotional support and immediate advocacy for women through completing any practical tasks that are needed, i.e. sorting out debt issues, complete housing applications and supporting them to make phone calls/write letters to other organisations.
·        Make referrals to WomenMATTA.
·        Ensure WomenMATTA paperwork is completed.

What's happening at the Pankhurst Centre this month ?

Pankhurst Centre Drop In Activities Timetable

Tuesday 4th October
Personal Development Course for Parents
Thursday 6th October
Pankhurst Centre Drop In
Mental Health Awareness Day
Friday 7th October
Women MATTA Drop In
Safety in the Home
Tuesday 11th October
Personal Development Course for Parents
Thursday 13th October
Pankhurst Centre Drop In
Friday 14th October
Women MATTA Drop In
World Mental Health Day
 Massage Session
Tuesday 18th October
Personal Development Course for Parents
Thursday 20th October
Pankhurst Centre Drop In
Friday 21st October
Women MATTA Drop In
Makeover Session
Thursday 27th October
Pankhurst Centre Drop In
Halloween Celebration
Friday 28th October
Women MATTA Drop In
Homeopathy Session and TBA

For further information contact The Pankhurst Centre at or call 0161 273 5673
WomenMATTA at or call 0161 273 1518

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Crying Game

Pauline is one of the WomenMATTA volunteers. She divides her time amongst a number of different volunteer roles, the main one being her role at the Helpdesk at Trafford Magistrates Court. Pauline is also a published poet. The Crying Game is a poem she has written about her experiences working with vulnerable women at court. Check it out :

The Crying Game

I sat and watched her tear stained face
As she stood before the court
She gave a plea of guilty
She said she hadn't thought
She said she did it for her children
To provide them with food to eat
To give them a taste of luxury
Shoes to house their feet.
She cried real tears, so desperate
It was heart rending to me
She cried because reality was evident to see.
Her howls could be heard from the gallery
Full admission to the crime
She said her actions were out of character
No reason or rhyme.
She said she didn't mean it
But knew she was to blame
She had tried to steer away from intention
She hung her head in shame.
Things quicly blew out of proportion
Got swiftly out of hand
She wanted to curl up in a ball
Bury her head in the sand.

Soon she heard of WomenMATTA
They offered her a helping hand
They work with women who need support
They really understand.
The Drop In they run is accessible
With workers and valuable volunteers
Giving time and being available, mopping up the fears.
They offer food and laughter
A safe place for all to be
A place that offers safety and encourages harmony
With woman who respect you for the way you are
Support you when you need it, helping you go far.
So when you feel life's getting you down
And you cannot see the end
Come to WomenMATTA Drop In and I'm sure you'll find a friend.

Thanks Pauline. And thanks to all our amazing volunteers, without whom, none of this would be possible......or half as much fun.