Supporting domestic abuse charities – the facts

Some people have asked about the Council’s support for Sistah Space, an organisation which provides support for women and girls of African heritage affected by domestic abuse. 

Hackney Council has long tried to support Sistah Space’s work, which is why it funds them alongside other registered domestic abuse charities operating in Hackney. The Speaker of Hackney, Cllr Kam Adams, selected Sistah Space as one of three nominated charities he is raising money for during his term. 

Refurbishing Sistah Space’s premises

In 2016, Hackney Council let premises in Lower Clapton Road on a low-cost basis to Hackney CVS so that it could grant a licence to Sistah Space to operate in the building.

Last year, Sistah Space contacted the Council to explain that these premises were not suitable for the organisation’s long-term needs, but that changes could be made to the building to make it functional until a permanent home for its work could be found. In response, the Council stopped any rent payments due, and agreed to carry out specific work at Sistah Space’s request, including: 

  • A new secure front door and frontage
  • An internal partitioned room for private meetings
  • A new rear door providing an emergency escape
  • An upgrade to the heating and electrical systems

The final work went further – including new flooring, new toilet facilities, a new kitchenette and upgraded internal and external lighting. These were agreed and designed with Sistah Space, including the layout of space, materials, and colour schemes. The Council's project team held a number of meetings with Sistah Space representatives, and engaged in regular correspondence over several weeks, to ensure the final specification was agreed by Sistah Space. The total cost of the project was around £35,000, paid for by the Council.

Sistah Space required short-term accommodation whilst the works were undertaken, so the Council provided space in a commercial building on Mare St that was temporarily available. This has been provided on a rent-free basis, with the Council covering all costs associated with their use of the building, including 24/7 security, utilities, rates, internet and cleaning. The Council also covered Sistah Space’s removal costs and provided fire safety training to staff and volunteers. This was all agreed on the basis that Sistah Space would move back to Lower Clapton Road once the works there were completed, which they agreed to.

This refurbishment is now complete, which is why the Council approached Sistah Space last month about moving back to Lower Clapton Road. After Sistah Space raised concerns about moving during the coronavirus pandemic – especially given the disproportionate impact of the virus on the communities they serve – the Council offered to extend the current rent-free temporary arrangement in Mare Street until the end of July at the earliest. This will continue to be reviewed in line with Government announcements on lockdown restrictions, and Sistah Space will not be asked to move until it is safe to do so.

Like all tenants on a Voluntary and Community Sector lease, any rent due from April to June has been waived, and the current temporary arrangement costs the Council more than £20,000 per month – a cost it has accepted to support Sistah Space’s important work continuing at this time. It also provided £5,000 in grant funding to Sistah Space in 2019/20, and has offered a further £5,000 grant this financial year once administrative processes required of all grant recipients are completed. The Council will continue to help Sistah Space find a more appropriate long-term home.

Support for domestic abuse and charities

Providing support for people affected by domestic abuse is more important than ever. The Council’s Domestic Abuse Intervention Service is operating a full service and has increased its capacity to provide vital support, advice and help to those in need at this time. This is also supplemented by specialist domestic abuse and sexual exploitation provision provided through London Councils – the umbrella organisation for the capital’s local authorities – which Hackney Council also funds. Hackney Council funds one of the highest number of refuge spaces in London, and more women approach refuges in Hackney than almost anywhere else in the capital. 

This has included a wide-reaching communications campaign, letting people know who they can get in touch with for help and support, training those on the frontline to identify and respond safely and effectively to cases of domestic abuse, continuing to rehouse those at risk and supporting migrant women with no recourse to public funds who will be particularly vulnerable in these unprecedented circumstances.

Tackling violence against women and girls is a long standing priority for Hackney’s Community Safety Partnership. The Council has been leading regular meetings with statutory partners, local domestic abuse agencies, voluntary and community sector partners to ensure a joined-up approach and to pick up on any issues and concerns. This will continue during and after the lockdown period, given the anticipated rise in domestic abuse reporting as measures are relaxed. 

The Council has also worked with community, faith and voluntary groups and mutual aid organisations to provide them with material and guidance on identifying and responding safely to domestic abuse. Any increase in demand for accomodation is immediately identified and addressed.

More information on the support that is available for anyone affected by domestic abuse is available on the Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse page.