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Domestic Abuse Fractures Lives

 
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About Choices

Our History

The campaign for a refuge in the North Kent area began in the summer of 1989. The need was perceived by our sisters in Bexley Women’s Aid who received calls from agencies and women who needed a safe place to stay outside of Bexley. After some initial research Hyde Housing agreed to work with the group to obtain capital funding from the Housing Corporation. Local Councillors, voluntary and statutory agencies met and a steering committee was then formed and each year a bid would go to the Housing Corporation and was finally successful in 1995.

Dartford & Gravesham Women’s Aid (DGWA) as we were then known received charitable status in 1995 and our first Annual General Meeting was held in September 1995.

In December 1996 with the support of Hyde Housing Association we opened our first house in Dartford providing accommodation for three families. In November 1997 a refuge for a further three families was opened in Gravesend which includes a playroom and is completely wheelchair user friendly. In 2001 with the support of Gravesend Churches Housing Association we opened our third refuge housing three families, and in June 2002 we opened our 4th refuge which houses eight families.

DGWA became an incorporated charity on 8th July, 2008, and became known as North Kent Women’s Aid (NKWA) on 1st January, 2009.

In 2012, NKWA, along with other independent specialist domestic abuse service providers formed the Kent Domestic Abuse Consortium (KDAC).   We formed the Consortium in order to help provide a more comprehensive county-wide service and because we believe that specialist domestic abuse services, embedded in the local community, provide the best outcome for victims.

In 2013, following the closure of a domestic abuse agency in Maidstone, we have provided support services to the communities of Maidstone, Medway, Tonbridge & Malling and Tunbridge Wells.

In November 2014, we became known as Choices to recognise the range of support services we provide to men, women and young people affected by domestic abuse across West Kent and Medway.

 

Where we are now

Today we are now able to provide refuge accommodation and support for 17 women and 35 children at any one time.

In addition to providing refuge accommodation and support services to the women and children in refuge, we have also been increasing our activities in the community. We are actively involved in the One Stop Shops in a number of locations in West Kent and Medway providing support and advice to men and women in the community. In addition, we provide Helpline support and advice to victims of abuse as well as to other agency personnel seeking advice for their clients.

We co-ordinate and facilitate the Freedom Programmes which are run in Dartford, Gravesham and Maidstone.  We also deliver other community programmes such as the Recovery Toolkit and the DAY programme.   We provide training on Domestic Abuse to statutory and voluntary organisations as well as give presentations in order to raise awareness of Domestic Abuse.

We are working with schools and youth organisations to introduce the 'Loves Me... Loves Me Not' healthy relationship programme which is a proactive way of informing children and young people about domestic abuse and help to challenge and prevent abusive behaviour.

As part of KDAC, we provide -

-  a Positive Relationships programme to adolescent girls who are more susceptible to early sex, early conceptions and violent and coercive relationships.

- a group programme for children aged 5-13 years who have experienced domestic abuse in their homes.

- Independent Domestic Violence Advisors to work with high risk victims of domestic abuse.

Our Hostel for Young People

Due to the generous donation by Soroptimists International Gravesend & District of a large property in Gravesham, we opened a hostel for vulnerable homeless young people aged between 16 and 25.   We are able to provide accommodation and support to seven people at any one time.

 

Our Board

We are able to provide accommodation and support services to the community through the considerable experience of our Board of Trustees, staff and volunteers.

Our Board of Trustees are drawn from a range of backgrounds including a Business Advisor, a Headteacher, a Solicitor, a Human Resources Consultant, the Soroptimists, and a homelessness advisor.  There are also two co-opted members from both councils.