Hywel Francis Community Impact Award
Stepping Stones – Next Steps Education Group
The Next Steps Survivors Education Group was set up for women who were survivors of abuse to learn new skills, improve their confidence and increase their overall wellbeing. Since it was set up two years ago, the learning group has given women the skills and self-belief to find employment, apply for university and help their children with their homework.
Shirley McCann, volunteer and events manager, says “The women are all survivors of physical and mental abuse who carry the lifelong effects of the trauma of their abuse with them in their lives. Some didn’t go to school regularly and have little education. School wasn’t a place of comfort or inspiration for them. All are lacking in self-confidence and self-esteem and many also experience poor mental health, unemployment, disability and isolation. “
For these women, every day is a battle. Lots of them struggle with simple things we would all take for granted – things like helping their children with homework or going shopping. Some of them were unable to fill out application forms or use computers. So, we listened to what they needed and set up weekly maths English and IT classes.”
For the Next Steps Survivors Education Group, learning has a wide range of benefits. As well as learning basic skills, the women have gained confidence and made new friends. Shirley continued: “At first the women who came were so nervous. They would say things like “I’m stupid”, “I don’t think I’ll cope” or “they said I’d never be good at anything”. It’s taken time and patience, but we’ve seen the women start to grow.”
“Working on their reading, writing, number and computer skills has helped them become more confident and feel more connected to the world. Moving the classes online during the pandemic helped the women get to grips with using software like Zoom, which meant they were able to keep in touch with their support networks during lockdown.
“These women have achieved so much. From qualifications in essential skills, to employment, to university and simply being able to do those things we take for granted like helping children with their homework – breaking the cycle of abuse. Some have even volunteered to take part in our peer support programme to help other women start their learning journey. Amy, 32, is a member of the Next Steps Survivors Education Group. She said: “Coming to the class is the best decision I have ever made. It helped turn a bad situation into a very good one. I am more positive, confident and happier, my mental health has improved and for once I actually feel proud of myself and positive for the future.”