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PO Box 54,

01737 771831

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Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid (RBWA) is a refuge, based in East Surrey, for women and children fleeing severe domestic abuse. The service provides accommodation and support to women and children over an average period of 6 months whilst resident at the refuge and for a further 3 months once the families have resettled in new accommodation. RBWA support 11 women and their children at any one time; there can be up to 24 children living at the refuge.

The families that use the service will be the most high risk cases of domestic abuse and they are assessed as being at risk of murder if they were to remain in their homes.

The staff team is made up of specialist support workers who have an in depth understanding of the challenges facing the families. Children’s support workers who have specialist knowledge of the challenges facing the children. The CEO is an Ambassador for the Women’s Aid Federation of England and is actively involved in campaigning for change, for survivors of abuse. A finance worker and housekeeper complete the team. 

At first point of contact the woman and her children are supported to get to the refuge. Most service users travel long distances from across England to get to the refuge. They need to be far away from their homes for safety reasons. The downside of this long move is that they will be separated from families, support networks, services, education and employment. They have to permanently leave their lives behind and often arrive with the clothes on their backs and nothing else. The refuge staff support the family to settle into the shared accommodation then start the process of rehabilitation and a new life free from abuse.

The support is best broken down into three parts – support for the women, support for the children and support for the family as a whole

Support for women:

There are two full time support workers onsite at the refuge, dedicated to working with the women.

Women arrive traumatised and bewildered so intensive emotional support is key. This continues throughout her stay and she is paired with a key worker who meets with her on a regular basis; daily at first and at a minimum weekly. Refuge staff are based onsite and are always accessible throughout the day, we also operate an out of hours on call service.

Women are offered counselling once they arrive and we have a counsellor who visits the refuge weekly. This enables women to be seen very quickly rather than waiting for an appointment through the NHS which can take six months to arrange.

RBWA run The Freedom Programme at the refuge. All women attend this 6 week programme whilst resident. The programme teaches women about domestic abuse and helps them to understand their experience and what effects it will have had on their children. This programme is critical in helping women avoid entering another abusive relationship after refuge. It is delivered by refuge staff who have been trained in delivering the programme.

Practical assistance and advocacy are key elements of support offered by refuge support workers. This covers a wide range of areas including:

Assistance to secure permanent accommodation after refuge.

Maintaining tenancy whilst at refuge.

Liaison and referrals to statutory agencies including Children’s Services, education, health and housing.

Assistance with benefits, education, employment and volunteering.

Liaison with police and courts in both family and criminal cases.

Attending any meeting with a woman when she requires an experienced advocate; from court appearances, housing meetings to a mental health appointment.

The aim for all of the practical support is to minimise the overwhelming nature of all of the contact with agencies. Empowerment is always the long term aim but we recognise that women have often been controlled to the extent that they are initially unable to manage the hugely traumatic changes that starting a new life for them and their children brings.  


Support for children:

There are two children’s workers based onsite at the refuge. One of the children’s workers is a qualified play therapist and filial therapist.

There is a dedicated playroom at the refuge.

The children’s workers support the children while their mother is in support meetings with her key worker. This is critical to avoid children being exposed to their mother’s trauma. They have often witnessed abuse and have often heard and seen devastating things that can affect them. This is the start of recovery and giving children back their childhood.

Play therapy is often a key part of a child’s stay at refuge. This therapeutic intervention enables a child to express their trauma through the medium of play. One on one sessions are held and are measured through pre and post therapy questionnaires.


Group children’s therapy sessions on individual topics including self - esteem, confidence, coping with loss and reducing feelings of isolation. These sessions benefit the children in terms of education about the topics but also enable them to form relationships with other children at the refuge. There are so many difficulties for children who have lost everything that is familiar to them. They are also unable to disclose their location to anyone which is contrary to everything children are taught about keeping secrets. They may make friends at their new schools but will be unable to invite them to their home or even disclose its location. So, the group sessions enable children to manage the difficulties of communal living with other children but also help to improve their bonds in a safe environment.

At the refuge we have a project that offers all school age children the chance to go on 1:1 outings with the play therapist. The children choose a dream outing and the play therapist accompanies them on a Saturday to their destination of choice. This can often be a simple activity like bowling or cinema with a meal out but we have also taken children to London theatres and included rickshaw journeys and a trip to the hairdresser and nail bar first! It is absolutely the child’s choice and the benefits are multiple:

-           Increase in confidence and self esteem

-          The opportunity to make independent choices

-          A high level of enjoyment from the children

-          Learning important life skills such as the use of money

-          A distraction and freedom from the trauma they have experienced

-          1:1 quality attention and time from an adult 

-          Stronger bonds and relationship have been built between staff member and children – this has led to a higher success rate in the child’s individual therapy process due to the existing trusting relationship that has been built

-          The opportunity to have fun and experience a sense of pleasure

-          The opportunity to experience and learn new activities – for a lot of children they are experiencing activities for the first time

-          Reduction in feeling isolated

-          Increased behaviour management

-          The opportunity to provide positive praise/rewards for good behaviour



Group outings are a regular event at the refuge and these can be as simple as a trip to the local soft play area or a day out at Chessington. Group activities such as arts and crafts and cooking are also regularly held. The refuge also has a gardening club where the children plant and harvest their own fruit and vegetables. This activity has the added benefit of teaching the children about the value of nurture and the great results that can be achieved through caring for their plants.


Support for the family:

We offer Family therapy sessions which can have the following outcomes:  


. An increase in mum’s self-esteem and confidence

. Better behaviour management – a decrease in challenging behaviour

. Mums have learnt new skills and strategies for maintaining positive behaviour 

. Boundaries and behaviour management systems are now in place



. Increased confidence/self esteem

. Help and support to process and make sense of the trauma experienced

. Improved behaviour – reduction in challenging behaviour

. The ability to build a trusting relationship

. Reduced feelings of isolation

. Learnt coping strategies

. More respectful

. Increased social skills



. The family have had fun together

. The family spent quality time with one another

. Broken/strained bonds have been strengthened



Other ways in which we offer the whole family support:

-          Support mums to put behaviour strategies in place – e.g. sticker charts

-          Help with routines and boundaries – learning to establish them and demonstrating how to put them in place

-          Teaching mums how to safely talk about domestic abuse and loss of dad

-          Support families to access local facilities

-          Basic care needs such as help with food portions, healthy eating, nit treatment

-          Securing places at schools/nurseries/childminders

-          Securing equipment such as buggies or high chairs


When the family arrives at refuge we have a project that we have secured funding for which provides the following items (all new):

Bedding (duvets, pillows, sheets, duvet covers and pillowcases) and cot bedding


Crockery and kitchen ware

Toys for the children

Food and toiletry bundles

Food and school uniform vouchers

The families can take these items with them when they move on from the refuge.


The Purpose of all the support we offer is to enable the family to start a new life after their stay at refuge, free from domestic abuse and empowered to make good decisions about their futures.


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