Following her own experience of domestic abuse and homelessness, OP Lindsay Oliver (93-98) set up the New Beginnings Peer Support charity in February 2020 with Harrogate Borough Council Officer Mel Milner to support women survivors of abuse and their children. With the number of domestic abuse cases rising rapidly during the Covid-19 lockdowns, demand for the charity’s support services has grown considerably and it is now applying for full charitable status.
The charity offers everything from a safe space to offload concerns and frustrations to food, clothing and furniture to ensure families live in an established and fully functioning home. Its aims are to support survivors who are about to resettle or have resettled in the community or those already in the community who are no longer in their abusive relationship.
Lindsay said: “New Beginnings is here to offer continuous support to women and their children while they negotiate the long-term ongoing effects of domestic abuse survival. That could be support with mental health signposting, education and training, debt management, furniture, clothing, food, a safe space to air concerns, practical and emotional support through criminal and family court, a crutch to lean on during ongoing co-parenting with their abuser, positive mindset work and goal setting all with the aim of a happier and healthier future for them and their children.”
The story behind how Lindsay started the charity is a very personal and powerful one. Lindsay explained: “I fled domestic abuse in June 2018 and presented homeless in Harrogate the following month. Mel, the Housing Officer that I presented to at the time continued to support my resettlement over the coming months while my eight-month-old baby and I slept on a sofa bed in my brother's basement. She watched on while I rebuilt my life with the support of IDAS (Independent Domestic Abuse Service), my GP, health visitors and family and came to terms with solo parenting, finding a home, living on benefits and rebuilding a trustworthy friendship group. At the end of the year Mel came to me and without realising that my background was in peer support, asked if I would like to start a peer support group with her to show others how I had built up my life while ensuring my safety and the safety of my child.
“We began a pilot in February 2019 and twelve months later the charity was formed just prior to lockdown. We came out of lockdown having seen a 700% rise in one-to-one support, triple the amount of clients and all the children that they come with who are equally in need of support; at the last count we are supporting 17 women and 41 children plus the eight women and 17 children currently in our local refuge.”
The charity is going from strength to strength, successfully acquiring National Lottery funding for a three-month self-care project as well as securing some core cost funding from Two Ridings Coronavirus Community Fund. It is now applying for full charitable status and is looking to appoint active trustees with professional experience in funding procurement, family court, mental health, peer support and third sector organisations as well as continuing with its fundraising programme to support the services it offers.