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Maria Sookias

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Maria Sookias

Job description: Development Manager at Stonewall Housing and LGBT domestic abuse forum

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Areas of interest: Housing and homelessness – services for women with complex needs, Domestic abuse, Families and children – including relationships, Substance use, Women involved in the criminal justice system, Mental health and wellbeing, Childhood trauma – including being in care or childhood abuse, Employment and skills, Improving support for women involved in prostitution

Maria Sookias's Recent Activity

"LGBT DAF Lesbian, gay bisexual and trans domestic abuse forum (LGBT DAF) is a second tier project that brings together individuals, community activists, researchers, voluntary and statutory agencies to improve services for LGBT people who have experienced domestic abuse. Our network is pan London although we have links to experts and specialist services across the UK. Our aim is to improve how LGBT survivors access and experience voluntary and statutory domestic abuse services as well as raise awareness of domestic abuse experienced by LGBT people. Current reforms and public sector cuts mean that the landscape of domestic abuse services is dramatically changing. Domestic abuse agencies are facing cuts, closure or contemplating mergers and some services will be provided by alternative providers in future. The LGBT voluntary sector is particularly vulnerable at this time since its income mostly comes from the public sector and is predominantly restricted and it spends 99.6% of its income each year (compared to the wider voluntary sector which is able to invest 3.8% of its income each year)[1]. Recent legislative advances have not stemmed the increase in numbers of people calling Stonewall Housing for advice: over 1/3 of callers have experienced domestic abuse. In a survey carried out for the LGBT Domestic Abuse Forum’s Transforming Domestic Abuse Services in September 2012 showed that out of 79 respondents 96% wanted more sexual and domestic violence services for trans people. Furthermore, many LGBT people will now have less safe, affordable housing options and poorer access to advice due to proposals to change welfare benefits (housing benefit cuts and increasing the age of the shared room rate), legal aid and social housing. The rise in vulnerable people facing domestic abuse is having a negative impact on other areas of their lives. It leaves them vulnerable to homelessness which in itself makes their situation even worse and there is a risk that they could have to choose between the abuse they are facing at home and the abuse they could face if they end up in inappropriate housing. LGBT DAF run quarterly events/open meetings and annual conferences on specific topics, produce resources, e-briefings and use of engagement tools, such as focus groups and surveys, to ensure sexual and domestic abuse services are meeting the needs of LGBT communities and all sectors are able to share best practice, knowledge and resources. One action from the Transforming Services Conference was to set up a meeting with the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) sector to begin discussions about providing services specifically for trans people. Early discussions with the VAWG sector has proved very positive and funding and we hope to continue to develop this work further. For further details, please go to: www.lgbtdaf.org [1] ‘The London LGBT Voluntary and Community Sector Almanac’ January 2011 Kairos in Soho"
Reply To: Prevention and recovery from domestic abuse and sexual violence