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One of the UK’s first purpose built refuges receives Royal Visit

During her visit, Her Majesty was introduced to the charity’s staff and volunteers, as well as key partners and stakeholders.

Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service (SDASS) welcomed Her Majesty Queen Camilla on a visit to the town’s refuge, where she hailed the charity as “something very special”.

The visit marks the start of the charity’s 50th anniversary year and highlights the lifesaving work it does through the refuge and in the community to support women, men and children.  The Queen also officially unveiled the new name of the refuge building, Jenni’s House, chosen by current residents in honour of the charity’s founder, Jenni Manners.

Jenni’s House, constructed by housing provider GreenSquareAccord (GSA), is one of the first purpose-built refuges in the UK and provides a safe home for up to 22 women and their children who are fleeing domestic abuse. GSA now manage Jenni’s House on behalf of SDASS.

Ben Taylor, Director Of Homes and Communities at GSA, who represented the housing association during Her Majesty’s visit to Jenni’s House, said: “We are proud to celebrate SDASS’s 50th Anniversary, and our partnership which has seen us deliver the first purpose-built refuge accommodation in Swindon.

“The Royal Visit highlights the importance of specialised providers, such as SDASS, working collaboratively with housing providers to contribute towards  safer and supportive communities. It was an honour to meet Her Majesty and share some of the story behind our successful partnership.”

Her Majesty also met with women and their children who are residents at Jenni’s House, speaking to them about their experiences and the support they’ve received to start rebuilding their lives after suffering domestic abuse.

The Queen was invited to visit the flat of resident Jennifer, who has been living at Jenni’s House for six months with her daughter.  Speaking about the visit, Jennifer said: “It felt very normal to have The Queen visit the flat, she was very friendly and down to earth.  She was really interested in my daughter and was very natural with her.  She said some very nice things about the flat and I don’t think she expected it to be as big as it is, or to even have a kitchen.”

Jo Eamey, CEO of SDASS, said: “We’re very grateful to The Queen for her dedication and tireless support of the cause and we are very grateful for the opportunity to tell her about the excellent work that the team does here in Swindon; changing and saving lives. To be able to mark the start of our 50th anniversary with such a prestigious visit is truly an honour and Her Majesty was so warm and interested in the stories and experiences of our staff and residents.”

The Queen also heard more about the range of programmes and support in place not only to help victims recover, but also stop abuse from happening again.  In 2021, SDASS launched their Open2Change programme, a specialist programme designed to work with those who perpetrate domestic abuse and re-educate them to stop the cycles of behaviour.

Early education is also a priority for SDASS, with a pilot project currently being run through local schools that are part of the White Horse Federation to educate young people and their teachers on healthy relationships as well as providing a point of contact within the school for those experiencing abuse in the home.

On unveiling the new name of Jenni’s House, The Queen said: “I can see that there’s something very special here and you’re doing such a wonderful job in so many walks of life.  You seem to be getting into everywhere, which is what is needed.  It’s not just looking after victims and the children, it’s getting into schools, teaching young people, teaching respect.”

Nicky Alberry, Chair of SDASS, added: “Domestic abuse will only end when we see a shift change in society and more people step up and speak out, and we use education to prevent future abuse as well as break the cycle of abusive behaviour through targeting the root cause of abuse – those who perpetrate it.”

If you need advice for yourself or a friend relating to Domestic Abuse, call the confidential 24/7 Helpline, which is always answered by an Advisor, on 01793 610610.


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