Aegis Counselling Service, based in Stokesley, operates throughout all seven districts of North Yorkshire, providing access to specialist counselling for people affected by sexual and domestic abuse.
The team at Aegis has a combined experience of more than 50 years in counselling victims of sexual and domestic violence and all of the staff are professionally qualified to degree level, working within the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy ethical guidelines.
The not-for-profit organisation is a registered Community Interest Company (CIC) and has been delivering services voluntarily since September 2013. However, the team has now secured a Big Lottery Fund ‘Reaching Communities’ grant* of £193,000, spread over three years.
The Big Lottery funding will help Aegis to take on salaried staff working alongside volunteers which will allow them to grow and reach more people all over North Yorkshire.
Aegis was established in 2013 by five counsellors who recognised a real need across North Yorkshire for specialist psychological services for people affected by abuse. The founding members started meeting at Aegis’s head of services Debbie Percy’s home, in North Yorkshire, to plan the best way to meet the needs of people across the area.
Debbie worked with fellow-counsellors, Helen Chase and Angela Dobson, to secure funding which enabled them to move into Springboard Business Centre on Stokesley Business Park. Local grant funding was also secured to pay for counselling sessions and cover running costs.
Debbie Percy, head of services at Aegis, said: “When we set up, we’d carried out a lot of research and realised that there was limited provision for specialist counselling for men, women and children affected by sexual and domestic violence. Delivering services in North Yorkshire is challenging due to the 3000 square miles that the county covers and travel has been a major cost for Aegis.
“We’re now receiving referrals for men, women, children and young people impacted by abuse. The youngest client is just four years old and the oldest is 74. We know that perpetrators of sexual and domestic violence often use a method of isolation to carry out such abuse, therefore the geographical makeup of North Yorkshire being predominantly rural can often heighten such isolation felt by the victim.”
The requirement for Aegis’s service has also been highlighted by a ‘victims needs analysis’ instigated by Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire Police Crime Commissioner (NYPCC). Julia acted upon the findings of this analysis by commissioning a range of services for victims of crime and establishing ‘Supporting Victims in North Yorkshire’, which includes access to counselling. In October 2014, Aegis was commissioned by Julia to provide their specialist counselling for victims of domestic and sexual abuse county-wide.
Since October 2014, the service has received over 250 referrals. This increase in referrals has led to the team growing from five to 12 volunteer counsellors.
Julia said: “I am delighted that Aegis has won this funding. The team provides essential services to some of our most vulnerable victims and makes a real difference to people, helping them to cope and recover from extremely traumatic events. The money will help Aegis develop their services over a number of years and will ensure this essential service continues to do excellent work. Congratulations all round.”
Debbie said: “Like securing our Big Lottery grant, working with North Yorkshire Police has been a major step for Aegis. Committing funding to services for victims is essential as it highlights to the victim that they are important and that they deserve a service that meets their specific needs.”
The Supporting Victims in North Yorkshire service can be contacted on 01904 669276 (Support is still available even if an offence has not been reported to the police.)
* The Big Lottery Fund supports the aspirations of people who want to make life better for their communities and is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by the National Lottery for good causes, and invests more than £650 million a year in projects, big and small, in health, education, environment and charities. Since the National Lottery began in 1994, £33 billion has been raised and more than 450,000 grants awarded.
The Reaching Communities arm of the Big Lottery, from which the Aegis grant has come, was set up to help voluntary or community groups in areas across England most in need. It has a pot of £200 million.