CEO of Wolverhampton welfare charity reflects on 50 years of work to help women

The CEO of a city women and children's welfare charity has spoken of the work still to be done to support women affected by domestic abuse.

Popinder Kaur said what made the Haven special was keeping its roots in the city
Popinder Kaur said what made the Haven special was keeping its roots in the city

Popinder Kaur has been the leading figure of the Haven Wolverhampton since 2016 and has seen the work the charity has done to provide practical and emotional support for women and children who have been subjected to domestic abuse, and women who are at risk of homelessness since 2004.

As the charity prepares to mark 50 years of work in the city, Ms Kaur said the anniversary was a dual-edged sword.

She said: "It means we're still here as an organisation set up in the 1970s, which means women need a lot of support and a lot of help and referrals are really high, so in that sense, we are here to support women and it's whether we call it a celebration as there is still a high need.

"I'm please we're still here and I'm pleased that we're sort of celebrating that we are here to support women, but on the other hand, it also means that there's a real crisis around domestic abuse and there's a lot more need now as well."

Since setting up in a small house leased by the local authority in 1973, the Haven has grown to incorporate 77 spaces, dispersal units and safe houses, as well as other services around outreach service provision, such as counselling and therapeutic support.

Ms Kaur said the service has been designed around what the women at the Haven had wanted and was continually evolving to meet needs, with digital technology a big part in the form of online telephone support.

She said that the Covid-19 pandemic had really pushed the technological work forward as the service adapted to the changes lockdown brought, not just for the women they were helping, but for staff as well.

She said: "Covid has meant that we've had to really adapt to the changes that Covid brought around technology and one of the things that we already had in place at the Haven was a really good IT infrastructure and we had already started things like live chats.

"I think that what we've found is that women did reach out to us over the period of Covid, but their support looked very different to what we were doing previously.

"There was also the importance of staff wellbeing as well, especially when staff were supporting people from home and that peer-to-peer support when staff were working in a trauma environment.

"They got that peer-to-peer support whether they're in the office or working from home and when they were at home, and we were delivering a 24/7 service, it became a real priority for us to help support staff and make sure their wellbeing was a priority."

The work of the Haven Wolverhampton has been supported over the last 50 years by the partnerships it has developed, with Wolverhampton Council among those helping to support the charity.

There has also been success, with awards including the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service in 2017, although Ms Kaur said that while she was proud of the awards, she preferred to let the work of the service to speak for itself.

Popinder has been part of the charity since 2004 and said the services were always evolving

She said: "It's always good to get the awards, but I think the award always comes after the work and we don't build up to an award and then tick the box, but the work happens and we get recognised for that work.

"We were awarded the GSK award recently, which was a real priority around the agenda of counselling and mental health services for women, and we've been working with the local authority on domestic abuse and suicide prevention and the links between them.

"So with awards, there is a recognition for volunteering for our training provision, but I think the Haven has always tried to look at projects in an innovation way and awards are great in that way."

Ms Kaur said that since she started as a bid writer with the Haven in 2004, she had seen a number of key milestones, including the development of Pearl House, a refuge for women with mental health issues.

She said she had also seen the work done to support children who had become carers for their mothers due to emotional neglect and the work to support women who didn't want to leave the Haven as they were affected by the cost of living crisis.

As the service continues along its 50th year, Ms Kaur said there were still things to look forward to during the year to help commemorate the golden anniversary, including a unique story-telling series.

She said: "We are doing the 50 Stories, which is women who have used the service since it first started and is sharing their stories and where they are now.

"There are a lot of women who leave the Haven and and leave it as their past, but some women have agreed to share their stories and it's not just for women, but also for staff who have been through services and supported the Haven and their stories are really important.

"The comms team are also working on a timeline, a really nice history with key milestones over 50 years, and we're calling out for the public to come and share their stories and we have our 50th anniversary ball on October 6, for which tickets are on sale."

The Haven Wolverhampton has endured and thrived over 50 years and Ms Kaur said what made it special was the fact it had maintained its independence.

She said: "We're a local charity, based in Wolverhampton, and we've stayed focussed and have our roots in Wolverhampton and we support women from all over the country.

"I think there's a danger of organisations expanding quickly and trying to reach and get funding pots from lots of different sources and what we've tried to do is ensure our services are designed by women.

"That's critical as they are the ones who are accessing our services and who are keeping us focussed on the roots in Wolverhampton."

To find out more about the Haven Wolverhampton, go to

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