Denise Norton is the Diversity and Inclusion Lead for the Devon and North Dorset Prison group within HMPPS. In this guest blog she tells of her fascinating Insights22 VIP day with Lady Edwina Grosvenor at Hope Street, the first purpose built, county-wide residential network designed by women, for women with multiple needs
I consider myself to be a lifelong learner and so every year I apply for as many of the Insights events as I can fit into my busy diary. As the Diversity and Inclusion lead, I was delighted to learn I had won a VIP ticket to visit Hope Street followed by a coffee and chat with Lady Edwina Grosvenor. This was a great opportunity to learn more about this exciting project which aims to support justice involved women and their children.
After brief introductions, Edwina and her Community Director, Jane Smith described what their vision was for the women and children with whom they would soon be working and how they would achieve that. It was clear from the first moment I met them, they are hugely passionate about providing wrap around rehabilitative services to the women in a holistic environment providing a much-needed place in the community where women can recover without the need for their children to be removed into care.
From this passion arose Hope Street, a place being built in the heart of Southampton from the ground up. It provides a place of safety for women to live and heal in a trauma informed manner, encouraged by on-site staff who are there to support reintegration and eventual move on to one of the sister houses where there is ongoing support and an opportunity for the women to live independently. At the heart of that is partnership working with other agencies to ensure the women have access to services which support their ongoing recovery.
I was privileged to see the building both inside and out and dressed in the obligatory hard hat and boots combo, I had a full tour and an invite to return for tea and biscuits when it is fully operational. Each part of the build has been in consultation with a variety of stakeholders and the result is a careful balance between an enabling environment that fosters independence. As this is an innovative pilot project, I look forward to following their progress and hope this is the first of many across the UK.
My thanks go to the Insights team, Lady Edwina and Jane Smith for being such gracious hosts and sharing their vision for the future of women’s services in Hampshire. I took from our meeting, the importance of compassion and understanding when working with justice experienced people who have often being victims of trauma. I will use this in my current role when developing narratives around diversity and inclusion across my prison group.