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As part of the Nuffield-funded research project Women working to support women in the welfare sphere: Psychosocial challenges, a desk-based mapping exercise was conducted between October and December 2021. The aims of the mapping exercise were: first, to identify organisations across the UK that provide direct services to women and girls who may be marginalised or socially isolated in order to develop a panorama of service provision; and second, to enable collection and a review of any reports, statements and blogs produced by these organisations on their experiences and challenges faced during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Method: A desk-based online search

An internet search was conducted using different keyword combinations (“charity”, “women and girls”, “support services”, “support organisations”, “violence against women and girls”, “criminal justice services”, “women’s centres”). This involved not only broader google searches, but also the consultation of relevant directories such as Clinks, Women’s Aid, Mind, among others.

Potential organisations were filtered according to their focus/mission, target audience, and type of service provision. That said, organisations were included if they provided direct services to women and/or girls (regardless of broader client groups, including male clients and other populations). Umbrella organisations, campaigning/lobbying groups, and research organisations were filtered out.[1]

From this initial search, a total number of 535 organisations were identified, of which 391 were based in England and Wales, 99 in Scotland and 45 in Northern Ireland.[2]

A (wide) range of support services

For the 535 organisations initially identified, information was compiled on their location, geographical distribution, scope, mission, service provision, as well as key contact information. As can be seen in the infographic below, a wide range of organisations were identified, including: specialist victim support services, community and citizen support/advice, mental health, addictions, poverty, refuge and housing support. Covid-related statements, blog posts, and annual reports were also gathered from these organisations.

A further search

Following a second Google-based search and consultation of the government charity register a further  444 organisations were identified. All identified organisations were plotted on a map of the UK to provide  a visual representation of the mapping.

Made with Visme Infographic Maker

Overall, 980 organisations were included in the map. These were coded according to their focus (e.g., violence against women and girls; homelessness), client group (e.g., women, LGBTQ+), and type of service (e.g., mentoring; advocacy). Importantly, as mentioned above, some services were not exclusively focused on women and/or girls, and many provided holistic support covering a variety of issues (e.g., addictions, homelessness, poverty). Thus, in order to facilitate the visual representation of these services (through colour coding), only one code was attributed to each of the organisations. It is important to acknowledge, however, that many of these organisations provide holistic and overlapping services.

We do not claim that this map of service provision is fully comprehensive, nonetheless it provides important background, and brings to light the variety of services and organisations available to tackle the multiple issues faced by marginalised and isolated women and girls. This mapping exercise has also played a fundamental role in guiding subsequent stages of data collection, including the distribution of our online survey as well as the recruitment of interview participants.

What's next?

Following this mapping exercise, the research team have begun reviewing the organisational statements, reports and blog entries collected. Over 200 statements were gathered during this exercise, and an initial analysis has highlighted numerous challenges faced by these organisations, from financial precarity to concerns about the safety of clients. Watch this space for further reflections!

To participate in our survey, please go to: bit.ly/333ylsH, or to get involved in the interviews, contact us: https://womensupportingwomen.uk/contact-us/.


[1] These organisations were nonetheless retained and considered for their potential during the recruitment stage.

[2] This also included international organisations with national offices based in the United Kingdom.