More than 4,000 women with mental health problems are to benefit from £1.8m in grants generated by the so-called Tampon Tax Fund - the revenue generated from VAT on sanitary products.
The money will be used by the mental health charity Mind and Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk, as part of the Women Side By Side programme which will support women through around 70 projects delivered by specialist organisations across England and Wales.
The projects will particularly benefit women experiencing mental health problems, homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse, abuse and violence, family breakdown, offending or a combination of these.
Examples of the projects include:
- Clean Break – a women’s theatre organisation, which works in prisons and other communities across the UK.
- The Survivors’ Forum – a safe online community providing peer support for women affected by domestic abuse, from the Women's Aid Federation of England.
- The Ethiopian Women Empowerment Group (EWEG) which will provide peer support to address mental health problems in women affected by the Grenfell disaster. The project will predominantly work with Black, Minority Ethnic & Refugee (BAMER) women from Ethiopian, Moroccan, Egyptian, Eritrean, Somalian and Asian communities who are isolated as a result of language and other barriers, and who struggle to access mainstream services.
Five new hubs (four in England and one in Wales), which will act as learning centres supporting every project, are already up and running. The hubs, run by women’s organisations, are using their specialist expertise and links to community organisations to make sure all services understand and respond to women’s specific needs, including their experiences of trauma and abuse.
Sophie Corlett, director of external relations at Mind, says the Women Side by Side programme will offer "a safe, non-judgemental and collaborative space for women from all walks of life who need support for their mental health – whatever the reason".
“We know that the journey to good mental health can be difficult, especially for women who have faced traumatic life events. Peer support is one option that can be offered to make sure people stay well in their communities. It increases people’s sense of choice and hope, and improves people’s wellbeing, which is why we believe community-based peer support services should be offered alongside statutory mental health services across England and Wales.”
And Jemima Olchawski, chief executive of Agenda, says: “Poor mental health among women is often closely linked to difficult life experiences like abuse and poverty, which is why this programme’s focus on reaching the most disadvantaged and marginalised women is vital. By combining the expertise of Mind, Agenda, women’s organisations and women with lived experience of mental health problems, we believe this important work will make a real difference to the lives of thousands of women.”