By Jules Hillier, Chief Executive of Pause
My deadline for writing my reflections on 2023 is fast approaching and although I am usually pretty happy jotting down my thoughts, this year I’ve found it difficult. I think everyone – not just Pause but many other organisations working under really challenging circumstances – has found the last few months hard. When I’m in that brain space, it’s not easy to look back and reflect on what has been good about a year.
And then I had a session with the outgoing members of the Pause Advisory Group. Our Advisory Group is a group of women who have experienced the Pause Programme, who get together to provide advice, support and insight to our trustees and wider organisation, about our work, our direction and our strategy. This year, some of them finish their three-year term and today was about celebrating those leavers and thanking them for the difference they have made to Pause. And now my problem is that I have too much to say, because they unlocked an avalanche of memories and gratitude for how much they have supported the organisation to achieve.
Things like In a Mother’s Mind, the podcast series co-created by women and our Communications Officer, Fi. I have been blown away by how well the women took to the tricky task of presenting and interviewing. They draw so much out of their guests and each episode of the podcast leaves me inspired and determined to work harder for change. Talking about co-creation, it was really brilliant to be part of the small live tour of Lasagna, a play co-written by a group of women working with Pause North East and playwright Catrina McHugh and produced by Open Clasp Theatre.
Women’s voices have also been at the heart of our campaigning work this year. More than 1,400 women have completed the Pause Programme now and it’s our duty to listen to their experiences and use what we learn to try and create change for the better. This year has seen us launch two reports, both about topics of major importance to women. Most recently, our Never More Than Once report has generated important and interesting discussions with policy makers about the things that need to change. Our Heating or Eating report looks at the impact of increasingly tough financial environment through the lens of women who have experienced repeat removals.
Ah, yes, the cost-of-living crisis. It’s hard to reflect on a year without mentioning the tough stuff too. In common with everyone in the charity sector, Pause has seen some really difficult times this year. We have been desperately sad to close seven practices in Bristol, Derbyshire, Dundee, the North East, Northamptonshire, Southampton and St Helens. I’ve lost count of the number of conversations we’ve had with good people in local authorities who are just trying to balance the books and can’t see how to. They know it means short-term thinking that will have longer term consequences but cannot see any other way. That’s not good for the women and families Pause supports, for our brilliant teams, for local authorities or for anyone really.
As we move towards 2024, we, like many other charities, are shifting and adapting to the changing external environment. I have been continually impressed by the patience, compassion and resilience of our national team and practice teams, as they creatively respond to the needs of the women, the organisation, their colleagues and themselves. Everyone has stepped up to the plate and got on with the job.
We’ll begin next year even more determined to deliver the best possible services to women, and to continue to learn from them about what works and what changes we can campaign for to make a difference to their experiences. I am confident that in 2024, we will continue to deliver excellent practice alongside women, share our learnings with other in the sector and influence policy in the hope that we can move closer to a time when repeat removals simply never happen.