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Polly's Blog - Dentistry is about more than just the mouth.

Polly speaks to Hayley Powell from the Haven about the amazing work the charity is doing in and around Wolverhampton.

Polly speaks to Hayley Powell from the Haven about the amazing work the charity is doing in and around Wolverhampton.

"We were really concerned for people that were having to lock down with something far more sinister than Covid. They were having to lock down with an abuser"

One of our values at Treetops Dental Surgery is to help support women and children in what is fast becoming a female-dominated profession. Part of that is giving back to our local community. But we wanted to involve our patients as well so they could feel like they had a part to play in supporting our chosen charity – the Haven. And so we came up with the idea that for every Google review we received from patients, we would donate £5 – meaning we managed to reach a grand total of £500.

The reaction has been amazing. The patients completely got on board. And it’s allowed our patients to give back in a different way – particularly as the cost of living is beginning to squeeze everybody’s finances at the current time. But it wasn’t just the patients, all the staff wore the t-shirts for two days. We had big balloons all over the practice everywhere. The team even made a banner, and all of the reception was decorated. It was a great opportunity to bring our team and patients together.

Dentists are often the front line to spot some signals from social abuse as they check the head, neck and oral cavity. And so we thought this was a very worthwhile charity to support.

After donating the money, I sat down with Hayley Powell to find out more about the work the Haven does and how this money will help.

Polly Bhambra (PB): Thanks for speaking to me Hayley. Would you mind please introducing yourself and explaining what the Haven is?

Hayley Powell (HP): I'm the senior fundraiser at the Haven.

The Haven is based in Wolverhampton and we support women and their children who are vulnerable or have been exposed to domestic abuse and homelessness. We do that through a range of vital services. The Haven offers a safe place for women and their children to stay through our refugees and communal and despair safe houses.

We also operate a whole range of other services. Everything from a 24-hour helpline to community and outreach support, as well as children's team counselling. And so much more as the demands have grown since Covid.

PB: "Is that the trend you’re seeing over recent years? Is the demand for your services growing?"

HP: "We do very sadly see year-on-year growth.

We were really concerned for people that were having to lock down with something far more sinister than Covid. They were having to lock down with an abuser.

We were worried there was no way for them to reach out to us. So we've had to really diversify the way that we operate as a service. Things like not just thinking about a helpline, but how else can people reach out?

We've now got a WhatsApp service. People can WhatsApp us and we can also have a live chat. When visitors go on our website, a box pops up. But visitors can safely exit the page and there's no trace of the history. We've also recognised the increasing demand for our accommodation, our safe spaces. So, we've increased the number of safe houses that we have and we have some apartments as well.

However, there are a lot of women that have teenage boys. Unfortunately, we can only house boys in a refuge up to the age of 16. But safe houses allow us to keep families together, with teenage boys into their early 20s.

And another reason is, some women were saying that, perhaps due to mental health anxiety, they really wouldn't do well in a community setting and it was holding them back.

We're removing those barriers and giving them a safe space. They still receive all the support but with independent living."

PB: "Treetops Dental Surgery likes to go above and beyond helping local communities and supporting local charities. What help will this money from Treetops provide and how will it be used?"

HP: "£500 is a lot of money for us – it can help with a whole range of things.

I think what's most important here is it can go where the need is greatest, which is vital really in a service that changes daily. A call to our helpline, which for most is the first step of reaching out, costs £2. So this donation could support 250 women with a phone call. That's potentially saving 250 women’s lives.

But a lot of the time, women will call us, but they won't call us to leave initially. They’re not sure if it's abuse or just want to explain what they’re going through. It isn't always an immediate leave. And we would never encourage a really quick leave because it's not always safe. Instead, we’d always encourage people to speak to us. Let us understand what's going on. Let's support them. Help them to make a safety leave plan, which we help them create.

So if they do want to leave when they're ready it’s completely safe. And it's not like a prison. It's a home, a safe home and the locations are hidden, so it's a safe place for them to stay."

PB: "How long do you provide support to somebody for?"

HP: "It used to be up to six months on average, but we’re now seeing 12, because people can't move on with the cost of living crisis. There's no housing to move on to that is affordable. And for children, not only are they uprooting a family home where they’ve been exposed to abuse and whatever else has happened. But then also their school, new friends, new house, different area. This is why services such as the Haven are so important. We can be with them every step of the way on their journey.

The Haven is obviously Wolverhampton based, but you've got Haven Birmingham, Haven elsewhere. There are lots of different places called the Haven, but Haven Wolverhampton is a standalone charity. However, there's a whole network of organisations around the UK, and we all work together as part of a network."

PB: "How do people get in contact with you if they want to find out a bit more information or maybe fundraise themselves?"

HP: "We're on all the social media channels. Our handle on Instagram is TheHavenWton and drop us a message on Facebook and get in touch that way. You can go on our website and reach out to us there and you can email us. "

"But on the website there is a lot of different ways you can get involved with the charity. Whether you want to donate, fundraise, come to an event, do some volunteering."

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