An independent Wearside charity which helps families escape domestic abuse is managing a surge in referrals with the help of a four-figure grant from the region’s biggest building society.

Wearside Women in Need (WWiN) provides accessible community-based services to women and children at risk of or suffering abuse, and is also part of a national network of providers which helps to ensure safe spaces are available to families in need.

The charity runs a large family refuge centre that has remained operational right through the pandemic and is currently dealing with well over 200 referrals every month from the police, social services and the families in need themselves.

Newcastle Building Society has awarded Wearside Women In Need a £5,000 grant which will help it to cover the costs of meeting the increasing demand for its services and support families escaping domestic abuse start new lives.

The charity is now encouraging local people to keep an eye out for possible signs of domestic abuse in order to help any family members, friends or neighbours who could be in deteriorating situations.

It is one of four Wearside charities to have recently received grants totalling £17,000 from Newcastle Building Society, with the Durham Christian Partnership also receiving £5,000 to help fund a range of different community programmes that it runs.

Sunderland-based Hospitality & Hope, which works to ensure the health and well-being of vulnerable local people, has received a grant of £4,000, while Durham Action on Singly Housed has received £3,000 to support its work its local young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Founded in 1983, Wearside Women In Need provides a range of different services, including counselling, outreach work and training, and is adapting their delivery where possible in order to keep families and staff safe from Covid-19.

The charity will help families starting again in emergency situations by covering their transport costs and purchasing the items they need to begin to build a new life, including furniture, kitchen equipment and furnishings.

Becky Rogerson, CEO at Wearside Women In Need, says: “We’ve sadly seen a significant increase in reports of domestic abuse over the last year, and in the worst situations, this can mean families leaving their homes with nothing but the clothes they’re wearing.

“We try to provide a holistic service that covers everything that families might require, from initially assessing their needs through outreach work and managing the practicalities of getting to and moving into a new home in a new place through to providing whatever counselling, guidance and advice is required along the way.

“The rise in referrals that we’ve experienced, and particularly the increasing numbers of safeguarding issues that have arisen with at risk children has translated into far greater levels of demand being placed on our organisation and we’ve had to bring in additional staff to help ensure we’re meeting it.

“With many of our usual funding streams out of reach at the moment, Newcastle Building Society’s generous support means we can keep our helpline properly staffed, provide practical and emotional support wherever it’s needed and offer immediate assistance to families at the times they need it most.

“Domestic abuse situations can arise anywhere and can affect anyone, and being aware of the signs of any developing difficulties can make a huge difference to the well-being of families living in your community.”

The grants have been provided through the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which offers grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network.

The donations form part of the £1.5m community commitment made in 2020 by the Society to help the region manage and recover from the impact of Covid-19.

David Pearson, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s Waterloo Place branch in Sunderland, adds: “Wearside Women In Need has been making a massive difference to the lives of people living in extremely difficult circumstances across our community for decades and the work that the team has put in over the last year to make sure this support is still available is hugely impressive.

“All the local charities that we’re supporting maintain a commitment to the community which we look to match ourselves and we’re proud to be helping to sustain their invaluable work.”

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has also contributed over £2.1m in grants and partnerships to a wide variety of charities and projects across the region, including the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Prince’s Trust. The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Society also made a £100,000 contribution to the Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund set up by the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.

To contact Wearside Women In Need, please call 0191 416 3550.