News |3 February 2022

Cambridge Women’s Aid and St Catharine’s College expand partnership to support survivors of domestic abuse

Cambridge Women’s Aid and St Catharine’s College today announced the start of a new programme of activities to improve the support available to survivors of domestic abuse. Both organisations agreed to expand their existing partnership after the success of a “pop-up respite beds” initiative in 2020 and the ongoing backing of the Monday Charitable Trust.

St Catharine’s and Cambridge Women’s Aid worked together in 2020 to provide 1,456 nights of free-of-charge accommodation to 23 women and children escaping domestic abuse. This short-term solution was only possible last year because some College properties were vacant due to the pandemic, but this meant the partnership had an opportunity to provide a safe, welcoming environment while permanent arrangements were put in place. After the initiative was announced, the Monday Charitable Trust kindly offered to help cover the costs, with a donation of £50,000.

Angie Stewart, Chief Executive Officer at Cambridge Women’s Aid, said, “We’ve have been on a remarkable journey with St Catharine’s and I am delighted that we will be strengthening our connection in the months ahead for the benefit of survivors in the Cambridge area. Cambridge Women’s Aid has particularly appreciated the support and guidance of Lady Lyn Welland, Fellow Commoner of St Catharine’s, when deciding what shape our future collaborations could take.”

Central to the next phase of activity announced today, St Catharine’s will host a Survivors’ Conference organised by Cambridge Women’s Aid to enable 30 survivors from the Cambridge area to share their experiences with each other and advise local service providers on how to improve the support available. The conference is provisionally scheduled for late 2022, by which time St Catharine’s will have opened a new suite of dining and meeting spaces, which is currently under construction at its Trumpington Street site.

Angie added, “Having enjoyed my own visits to St Catharine’s over the years, I am confident that it will be a great location for the 2022 Survivors’ Conference, with welcoming and secure surroundings that will ensure anyone speaking about their experiences of domestic abuse feels safe. Using the same venue as prestigious academic conferences demonstrates to our survivors that they are valued and deserve to be heard.”

The expanded partnership will also educate and empower the St Catharine’s community with training and development opportunities provided by Cambridge Women’s Aid’s Ask Me Community Ambassador Scheme. The scheme will equip students, staff and Fellows to respond to and support survivors, regardless of gender identity, age, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, cultural beliefs or circumstances. They will be invited to participate in training sessions alongside other people from the local area (anyone with a connection to Cambridge can become an Ask Me Community Ambassador, whether or not they have been personally affected by domestic abuse). The training takes 15 hours in total, including self-led learning and group discussions, and accompanied by resources and support to enable participants to share what they have learnt with those around them.

Professor Sir Mark Welland, Master of St Catharine’s, commented, “I am proud that our expanded partnership with Cambridge Women’s Aid will continue to improve the support available to survivors of domestic abuse in the Cambridge area. I encourage our students, staff and Fellows to seize the opportunities that we’ll be providing through the Ask Me Community Ambassador Scheme to understand more about domestic abuse and how to respond to survivors.”

The Monday Charitable Trust has confirmed that it will continue to support the partnership between Cambridge Women’s Aid and St Catharine’s with a grant of £114,287 payable over the next three years, including covering the costs of the training scheme and survivors conference.

Sir Mark added, “Over the last year, the Monday Charitable Trust has been an ardent supporter of the partnership between St Catharine’s and Cambridge Women’s Aid, and recognised the benefits of what our teams have already been able to achieve together. On behalf of both organisations, I want to thank the Trust for their ongoing financial support and confidence in our collaboration.”

Douglas Blausten, Trustee at the Monday Charitable Trust and alumnus of St Catharine’s, explained, “The partnership between St Catharine’s and Cambridge Women’s Aid, supported by Lady Welland, is an exemplar for all universities in the UK and is exactly on par with the objectives of the Monday Charitable Trust, whose aims and objects are to support initiatives that use the built environment responsibly to help improve social cohesion, to support initiatives that combat mental health stress and domestic violence, and to aid the initiatives of education institutions to provide practical assistance to facilitate such work. This initiative helps achieve all of this and is to be commended.”

For further information about the Ask Me Community Ambassador Scheme, please visit: cambridgewa.org.uk/askmeproject.php