Dear Friends and Supporters,
We at the Whitworth Trust are heartbroken to have to convey some news.
We have been informed by Orwell Housing that, after 20 years of working to help young and vulnerable women, Whitworth House will close in June this year.
As many of you know, for the 15 residents of the House (who are all women, 16 to 25 years of age), it offers safe, all-female supported residential accommodation in Cambridge. You can learn more about its history and the inception of the project here: http://www.friendsofwhitworthhouse.org/whitworth-house.html
We have been told that as part of a strategic review of housing provision by County Council Commissioners, Whitworth House is one of the services that has been chosen to have its funding cut.
According to a representative from Orwell Housing – the housing association who have managed and owned Whitworth House since 2000 – the justifications the council gave for the funding cuts were as follows:
(i) Whitworth House was not assessed as being a specialist service, acting as a resource for multiple areas or offering a service which is significantly different to anything else in the local area.
(ii) Stakeholders have also flagged an over provision of services for young people in the Cambridge City area.
The above has come to us from Orwell, and we haven't spoken to representatives from the County Council yet -- this will be a next priority for us at the Whitworth Trust.
Indeed, a full critique of the decision to cut funding to this service will be useful. The next steps for our committee will be to gather as much information as we can about the conditions, circumstances, and timescale of these proposed funding cuts, and their repercussions for the provision of safe, on-going support for young women in Cambridge, many of whom come from a background of domestic and sexual violence, where mixed sex accommodation may be problematic.
The committee welcomes any and all suggestions for strategies to help safeguard such provision for women. We believe that it is imperative that this vulnerable group is supported in our community. We are hoping something can be done.
We can easily call Whitworth House a ‘service’, but it has also been a home for hundreds of vulnerable and precariously-housed women over the past 20 years. Many residents moved on and into full time education, employment, and most importantly there is started to trust a system that had failed them. As an institution, we believe that it has worked to help many women in the long term.
Orwell Housing tell us that from their perspective, the only option appears to be to accept the funding withdrawal, and as a result they can see no solution other than to close and then sell the property.
You will note that this post, which contains provisional information, is on the blog 'news and events' section of our website. We hope to make a more constructive statement in the next couple of weeks, after the committee has met and discussed some strategies for the future of provision of homeless women in Cambridge.
In the meantime, our aim is to work with Orwell to find out how we as a charity can support the current residents of Whitworth House.