We're taking shape in Yorkshire and Humberside
Gill Newman is the Psychological Therapist and Trainer at Freedom from Torture's new presence in Yorkshire and Humberside. Based currently in Leeds, she talks here to Social Media Co-ordinator Helen Nickols about building capacity in this region.
Welcome to Freedom from Torture, Gill. Tell me about Freedom from Torture in Yorkshire and Humberside
Freedom from Torture has wanted to be in a position to address the needs of torture survivors in Yorkshire and Humberside for some time. My role in this region is focused on building the capacity of existing services to cater for the needs of torture survivors. It is not a centre or a direct service to clients, as such (like we have in Birmingham, Glasgow, London, Manchester and Newcastle).
I'm very excited to be a part of Freedom from Tortures' presence in Yorkshire and Humberside and we've made a fantastic start already!
What does your work involve?
I offer training, supervision, advice and support to practitioners and agencies working with survivors across the region. My post is funded by a grant given to Freedom from Torture by the EU and I work in partnership with Solace – a small charity that provides counselling for asylum seekers and refugees.
My work has different strands. I'll be mapping the services that already exist for survivors of torture in Yorkshire and the Humberside, as well as networking and talking to other key organisations. Many services have been cut, reduced in size, moved away or simply no longer exist, so this is crucial work.
Another key part of my role is capacity-building amongst statutory and voluntary agencies across the whole region – which is pretty large! There are people who already work with torture survivors, as well as those that have the potential, but could perhaps benefit from some support.
I'll be setting up meetings for practitioners from across the region to enable them to share casework and support one another.
The aim is to enable practitioners to feel that they have the skills and confidence to work with the client group.
You started just over a month ago, how are things going, so far?
As well as having a lot of meetings with service providers, networking and beginning to map services, I've spent some time at both the London and Manchester centres. It was great to meet staff and volunteers. Everyone was so welcoming and supportive! It also brought me up to speed on policies around asylum seekers.
What brought you to this role?
I worked for nine years with asylum seekers in a crisis centre in Leeds in a previous role. We were there when asylum seekers were first dispersed to Leeds [the dispersal scheme, introduced by the Government in 2001, transfers asylum seekers to different regions across the UK, generally from London and the South East]. At that time, there was very little support available to survivors of torture. Overall, I've worked in mental health in Leeds for over 25 years.
What challenges face torture survivors living in Yorkshire and Humberside?
A key challenge is the increasing number of destitute asylum seekers in the region, many of whom are torture survivors.
An up-and-coming challenge is the the uncertainty around the new housing contract. It is likely that a large percentage of asylum seeking clients will have to move accommodation – possibly to another city. It has created uncertainly across the whole region. This is having an impact on clients, as well as our decisions on where we will plan services.
So, we are working with uncertainty and still finding our feet in the region. Hopefully our plans will be clearer later in the year as we become more established.
I'm very happy to be part of Freedom from Torture and I look forward to updating you in the near future.