A pioneering manager who helped develop the first and only independent living refuge for domestic abuse victims in North Wales has won a prestigious award.
Alison Hamlington, who recently retired from Welsh Women’s Aid Wrexham (WWAW), has spent the past 21 years ensuring survivors of domestic abuse receive the best level of care and support they need to recover from their experiences.
As the organisation’s Service Delivery Manager, Alison was part of a multi-agency team behind the launch of a pioneering refuge facility providing five two-bedroom units in Wrexham with additional communal areas to ensure families receive the space and independence they need to rebuild their lives.
The scheme, which is owned by Wales and West Housing Association and is managed by specialist domestic violence service provider, the Domestic Abuse Safety Unit (DASU), is the only self-contained refuge in North Wales.
Alison, 57, has now been presented with a coveted award at North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones’s annual police Community Awards.
Alison, who is currently enjoying a short career break until embarking on a new challenge, received her award at a glittering ceremony held at Theatr Clwyd in Mold.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be given this award by the PCC, someone in a statutory role who genuinely cares about vulnerable people,” said the former finance manager.
“I would like to accept it on behalf of the fantastic staff and trustees that I’ve worked with over the last 21 years and dedicate it to all survivors of domestic abuse.
“Without the girls doing their jobs so well we would not have been recognised in this way. It is very much a team effort.”
Arfon Jones said: “This is a richly deserved award. Alison has made a major contribution to keeping domestic abuse on the agenda in Wrexham for over 21 years.
“Wrexham has the only self-contained refuge in North Wales and Alison’s hard work and dedication were key to obtaining this.
“She has also worked hard to form partnerships with local businesses and colleges to build service user confidence and employability.”
Alison has worked as the organisation’s service delivery manager for the past six years, overseeing everything from high level strategic work as well as “buying the toilet rolls”!
As a former trustee of Welsh Women’s Aid, based in Cardiff, Alison has progressed multi-agency strategies with the PCC and the Welsh Government to improve provision and support for survivors of domestic abuse locally.
“I’ve always encouraged my team to not be precious about what they do. If we do something that can help like-minded organisations with our experience and expertise then that is positive,” she said.
One of her highest achievements came in September 2013 when Wrexham opened a new self-contained refuge which remains the only one of its kind in North Wales.
“All refuges should be like this model, it works so well,” she said.
“I worked closely with the Supporting People Team at Wrexham County Borough Council and Wales and West Housing Association over a few years to bring this project to fruition.
“We are all so proud, it’s a model refuge. It was very much a team effort and if it was not for the cuts nationally I would hope every county in North Wales would have a refuge like Wrexham.
“It is how it should be. Vulnerable people should not have to put up with second best. This refuge is giving people the chance of having their own ‘front door’ to close rather than having to share everything with other families from different backgrounds and ages, some of whom may have challenging behaviour.”
Alison said her partnerships with key charities such as ‘We Mind The Gap’, which helps disadvantaged young women by providing them with a six-month traineeship to help them into work.
She said: “I love going into the local community and seeing people getting on with their lives who have been through our services. Domestic violence doesn’t only affect people who are on benefits or from impoverished backgrounds, it covers the whole spectrum of society.
“I know of several women who have gone on to start their own businesses or have got good jobs – one as a police officer – all of whom have come through our service.”
“It makes me very proud to see these women going on from strength to strength.
“I am also proud of the partnerships we have created with Glyndwr, Chester, Liverpool Hope and the Open universities in addition to the ECTARC centre in Llangollen.
“For many years we have provided placements to students from Wales, England, The Netherlands, Sweden and Spain.
“We trained the students in a practical way to give them the experience of supporting survivors whilst we enjoyed learning about different cultures and services available in the wider community.”
The PCC’s Domestic Abuse Support Award is presented annually to an organisation or individual who has guided, supported, championed and empowered victims of domestic abuse to help them recover from their experiences and move forward positively.
Although her role was strategic and managerial, Alison was always keen to engage with survivors directly and ensure their voices were heard, particularly in relation to the development and improvement of services and policies.