A service which protects vulnerable women across the north is opening two new contact centres.

The North Wales Women’s Centre in Rhyl was forced to close its doors during lockdown, preventing women using its drop-in service.

Now the centre has re-opened and is launching its new Pathfinder offices in Wrexham and Bangor.

The Pathfinder programme, which aims to help women at risk of offending, has been commissioned and paid for by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Andy Dunbobbin. It provides early intervention and support to vulnerable women, often with issues such as alcohol and substance misuse, mental health problems and family relationships, to reduce the number in the criminal justice system while helping them live safer, healthier lives.

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Gemma Fox, Women's Centre managing director, said: “These are places which are welcoming, warm, friendly places where women who have been through trauma can be reassured and have confidential conversations in a safe environment.

“We know these centres can encourage women to rebuild their lives and without the help of the Commissioner we just wouldn’t have been able to go ahead with the plans

“The return to face to face work will encourage women to seek out support again as during the pandemic that personal contact couldn’t be there.

“We are beginning to see an increase in demand and are expecting this to grow with the developing economic fallout of the pandemic and drops in benefits.”

Wayne Jones, Deputy North Wales Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “We are very keen to support the ongoing work of the Centre to divert women out of the criminal justice system whenever possible.

“We know the impact a sentence can have on a family and that’s why we want to continue our support and we welcome the fact that the Centre is opening new bases in Wrexham and Bangor to make its services more accessible to women across north Wales.

“I know from my own experience how very, very helpful these services are to women at risk including those who come to the Centre and want to change their lives.

“They have an excellent record of supporting women who are in difficult situations and in diverting them away from prison.

“Covid has brought extra challenges with the reduction in face to face meetings but they have continued to do excellent work and it’s great that they can now develop services across north Wales.”

Yvonne Wild, Project Manager at the centre, said: “Women come to us through different routes, not just referrals from police or those who have committed offences, but those also at risk of offending.

“They’re often those who are homeless or with alcohol or drug problems, victims of domestic abuse and those in financial difficulty, particularly with the reduction in Universal Credit.

“There are also people who have lost jobs, especially in an area like Rhyl which is one of the most deprived in Wales, but also in Bangor and in Wrexham where we get the most referrals.

“There has been an increase in the numbers seeking support with domestic abuse and housing problems that we are dealing with and it hasn’t helped that women have not been able to call in during lockdown.

“However we were delighted to restart our Wednesday drop in service in Rhyl in September where women can call by without an appointment.”

To contact the North Wales Women’s Centre and for support go to northwaleswomenscentre.com or telephone 01745 339331.

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