Christy’s story

Christy* was referred to Alana House after being arrested for an alleged serious offence against her partner. Her partner was also arrested for assaulting Christy. Due to the severity of the offences Christy’s children were removed from her care and placed with their biological father and foster carers. Christy was assessed by the Liaison and Diversion team in custody and they referred her to Alana House’s Enrich programme through the Out of Court Disposal pathway.

Christy attended Alana House and met with the Enrich support worker. Together they created a support plan which gave Christy a starting point to be able to make sense of what support she needed. It also enabled her to begin to understand the concerns of her children’s social workers.

Christy was attending child protection meetings and court hearings; she struggled to regulate her emotions during these meetings. She had previously experienced domestic abuse for more than 20 years from her husband and subsequent partner and as a result, her response to all professionals was to protect herself. Christy was unable to recognise what abuse, control and coercion and emotional harm looked like. The support worker was able to make contact with the local authority and attend the child protection meetings with Christy to give her a voice which, up until that point, had not been heard.

Christy found this advocacy to be immensely beneficial. She said:

“It is hard to describe the amount of support Sarah has given me over the past year. I had a deep mistrust of professionals when first engaging with Alana House and it is to [the support worker] Sarah’s credit that she is one of the few professionals that I trust. At all times she has been honest with me, even when it involved difficult conversations. She has challenged me when necessary and this has enabled me to think about the way I see things and ways I could affect positive change for me and my children. Sarah attends meetings and court dates with me, many of which I feel I would never have been able to get through without her. She constantly pushes for my parental rights to be recognised. She also challenges other professionals on my behalf if she feels it is needed. She is the only person that is doing this.“

In their one-to-one keywork sessions, Christy and her support worker were able to identify that Christy would benefit from attending Alana House’s Parenting course. Christy attended all 12 sessions of the Emotional Regulation programme and went on to complete another 12 sessions of the Separated Parents programme. The support worker also referred Christy to another organisation to complete a domestic abuse programme. Christy completed the eight-week course and continues to receive support from her peers.

Through the Public Law Order proceedings the local authority asked Christy to complete a parenting assessment and a psychiatric assessment. It was recommended that Christy should have two years of therapy to address why she was unable to meet her children’s needs. The waiting list for therapy on the NHS is currently three years, and neither Christy nor the local authority was able to cover the cost of private treatment. This meant that without Alana House, Christy would not have been able to access the support recommended by the assessment which would have put her in a difficult position. Thanks to Alana House’s own in-house counselling service, the support worker was able to place Christy on the waiting list for therapy provided by an Alana House counsellor, which has a much shorter waiting time.

The psychiatrist also advised that Christy was not ready to commit to therapy yet because she was showing a trauma response in situations where she felt at risk. The support worker worked with Christy through one-to-one sessions to help her better understand the situation, so that she would be equipped to manage therapy and learn acceptance of what had happened.

Following this support from Alana House, a second parenting assessment was arranged and the assessor concluded that Christy had made a remarkable change, so much so that she was ready to embark on therapy due to the support she had received from Alana House. A space became available on Alana House’s counselling service and Christy began attending therapy sessions which are still ongoing.

Regarding therapy, Christy said:

“Therapy was only available to me through Alana House, no other organisation could offer it to me because of my circumstances. Therapy is vital as it will help me address issues that have plagued me my whole life. Therapy will hopefully help me to have better relationships which are healthy but most importantly a relationship with my children. My therapist at Alana House said that I am further ahead than I think I am down to Sarah [the support worker] and the difficult conversations she has with me, the way she is always consistent and never judges me. The fact that I recognise I need therapy is all down to Sarah.”

Christy and her support worker will continue to work together to embed the trauma-informed support in Christy’s life. The support worker will also continue attending child protection meetings, future court hearings and the criminal case outstanding against Christy to advocate for her and provide further support.

* Name changed for confidentiality

About Out of Court Disposals

The NHS Liaison and Diversion (L&D) services identify people who have mental health, learning disability, substance use or other vulnerabilities when they first come into contact with the criminal justice system as suspects, defendants or offenders.

In Berkshire, every woman arrested and entering custody is assessed by someone from their NHS L&D team. The service can then support people through the early stages of the criminal system pathway, refer them for appropriate health or social care and, for low level offences, enable them to resolve the crime without going to court, which is known as an Out of Court Disposal.

Alana House works alongside the local L&D team and Thames Valley Police to enable women with complex needs to be diverted to Alana House through an

Out of Court Disposal. Through their Enrich programme, Alana House then works with these women, providing holistic, trauma-informed support to empower them to make positive choices in their lives and reduce their risk of re-offending.

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