Wish and other third sector organisations have spent years developing gender specific services that meet women’s needs. There is policy in place that directs statutory services to do the same, but the gender-specific recommendations are not followed through in practice. For women to have any hope of getting the support that they require, this has got to change. Services have to understand that women need to be treated differently; they need to see that providing better, cross-sector, gender-specific support will make a huge positive difference.
Wish is therefore joining together with a diverse group of partners to create the Women’s Mental Health Network, a user-led campaigning platform that allows women to say what needs to change in statutory service provision, and to drive these changes forward. The partners come from a range of sectors, and the network aims to embrace all aspects of diversity in order to represent the various areas of difficulty that women face.
Current partners include:
Wish – A user-led women’s mental health organisation driving forward consistently gender-specific services within the mental health and criminal justice systems. Wish is the lead organisation in the partnership
National Survivor User Network (NSUN) – a service user led network connecting people with mental health needs to shape services and policy
Against Violence and Abuse (AVA) – a charity working to end gender based violence and abuse
St Mungo’s – a charity supporting homeless people
Revolving Doors Agency (RDA) – a charity working to improve services for people in repeat contact with the criminal justice system
Women in Prison (WIP) – a national charity supporting women in the criminal justice system
Imkaan – a black feminist organisation which addresses violence against women and girls
People First (Self Advocacy) – a campaigning and self- advocacy organisation run by and for people with learning difficulties
The WMHN’s focus is to improve women’s experience of using statutory services in a range of settings, such as hospitals, prisons, drugs and alcohol, housing, and social services, by influencing them to become more gender-specific. Everything we do will be women-led and designed to give women a strong and powerful voice.
We have already held focus groups with 30 women to identify 10 areas that are key campaigning issues. The next step is to reach out to 5000 women and ask them to identify the top 3 issues that we need to campaign to change. We will reach these women through channels provided by 53 organisations, including additional partner organisations, to ensure an inclusive approach in developing the Network.
After women have told us what is most important to them in service provision, we will develop, pilot and evaluate user-led campaigns with women. These campaigns will be designed to improve and drive forward the provision of gender-specific statutory services, and we will take them forward at a national level. These campaigns will change aspects of statutory services and put gender-specific policy into practice, so that women’s mental health is acknowledged at the point of service delivery, and women get the services they want, need and deserve.