Fylde Coast Women's Aid will open former Blackpool police station to domestic abuse victims this summer

A Fylde coast women’s charity that offers a safe haven to women and children fleeing devastating domestic abuse has received a huge boost in its journey to  set up new headquarters in the middle of South Shore.

Monday, 5th April 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Monday, 5th April 2021, 1:13 pm
The old police station will become the new home of FCWA

Fylde Coast Women’s Aid (FCWA) has big plans to transform the old South Shore police station on Montague Street into the heart and soul of their ongoing fight to protect struggling local women.

Now, after years of hard work, saving and fund-raising, the charity has received a welcome cash injection to the sum of £21,897 from the Morrisons Community Foundation, which will be used to refurbish the inside of the building.

FCWA service manager Glenda Smith said: “We are delighted that iour application to Morrison’s Community Foundation has been successful. FCWA has a great relationship with Morrison’s supermarket in Blackpool, and was encouraged to apply for the grant which would help the local charity to refurbish part of its new premises.

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“The grant ill mean that work to renovate the bathrooms, build a partition to create a separate space for a community hub and a training room, and to install flooring throughout can now go ahead.”

The renovations will be starting shortly, and the charity’s move from Bispham to the new headquarters in Blackpool is expected to take place in early summer.

CEO Tina Hibbard said “We are over the moon to receive this funding to carry out the work on our new premises. A huge thank you to Morrison’s and the team at Squires Gate who have backed us all the way.”

For several years, FCWA saved up to purchase a building large enough to accommodate staff and to provide a safe environment to support victims of domestic violence and abuse.

Plans to turn the old police station into an office block were approved by Blackpool Council in December.

The station was shut down in 2018 during a major police shake up, with officers relocated to Clifton Road in Marton.

The two-storey building was later put up for sale by auction in July 2019, and was purchased by FCWA for £127,000. However, more money was needed to renovate the inside of the building before it could be used.

Charlotte Rawcliffe, ‘community champion’ at Morrisons on Squire’s Gate, South Shore, was the one who encouraged FCWA bosses to apply for the last of the funding it required.

She said: “I am over the moon that the FCWA have been awarded this grant. After viewing the new property myself and realising how much money and work will be needed to make the property suitable, I was delighted to hear the great news.

“The funding will not only support the charity from a financial aspect, but also our Blackpool community. Knowing how much positive change and help this will bring those individuals in Blackpool who are experiencing domestic abuse, and creating a safe place for them, is what brings the most joy.

“I don’t think many people realize that domestic abuse can really mean life or death, and this small change in the community creating this space could really save lives.”

As well as providing an improved environment for FCWA to continue its work, it is hoped the new building will provide sustainability for the charity as it will save money on expensive rents and the cost of additional room hire.

FCWA staff member Sarah Bargh said: “The funds will ensure that the existing space is transformed into a safe, therapeutic, welcoming, disabled friendly area. FCWA is delighted that The Morrisons Foundation have awarded this grant to enable the organisation to complete this work.”

FCWA: THE HISTORY

Fylde Coast Women’s Aid was first established back in 1993 following a two-year campaign by the existing Fylde Coast Women’s Support Group.

Its first refuge, Burton House, was opened in Blackpool that same year. This was followed in 1995 by a second refuge, Haywood House, which provided eight rooms on the Fylde coast to women and children escaping domestic abuse.

In 1999 the charity established its first outreach service, which was expanded in 2003 thanks to increased funding.

The charity’s third refuge, Laurel House, opened in 2009, providing a further four beds for domestic abuse victims.

2012 saw FCWA’s first conference being held at Blackpool Football Club. This was so successful that the event was repeated on a bi-yearly basis, allowing FCWA to educate approximately 1,000 people on gender-based violence over the years.

Safe Haven, FCWA’s children and young person’s support service, was set up in 2019.

Over the past six years, the charity has increased its staff numbers from 20 to 33, and has now outgrown its current rented offices.

THE MISSION

FCWA pledges to ‘empower individuals to live their lives free from abuse’.

It offers shelter to women at serious risk of domestic violence, and advice on a range of topics including safety, housing, finances and welfare benefits, parenting, and immigration.

Victims who go to the charity for help can receive emotional support, as well as help getting into housing, navigating the benefits system, and accessing legal services if required.

In an online statement, FCWA said: “Domestic abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial, or sexual abuse which takes place within close relationship, usually by partners, ex-partners or family members.

“Domestic abuse can involve a wide range of abusive behaviour, including threats, harassment, financial control and emotional abuse.

“Perpetrators use coercive control, which is a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence to exert power over their victims.

“Physical violence is only one aspect of domestic abuse and an abuser’s behaviour can vary, from being very brutal and degrading to small actions that leave you humiliated. Those living with domestic abuse are often left feeling isolated and exhausted. Domestic abuse also includes cultural issues such as honour-based violence.

“There are various ways that people can be abused, however the main aim of the abuse is to gain power and control over the other person.

“The abuse often starts off with small incidents, with lots of different events that gradually chip away or erode your confidence.

“It can sometimes make you feel that you are losing your “sense of self” and that you can’t trust your own judgement or feel you don’t have the right to make decisions.”