Calling all Secret Santas!

Christmas should be a time of love, family and hope. But for many families who have suffered domestic abuse, it can be one of fear and loneliness. At Next Link we support thousands of families throughout the year both in the community and in our safe houses.

To spread a little Christmas joy to our families we are collecting gifts for the women and children in our services. We often receive very generous gifts for the children, but this year are making a special request for presents for the Mothers of these Children who are often forgotten.

If you have any gifts you are able to donate please call our Reception team on 0117 925 1811 to arrange a convenient time to drop the gift to us.

Thank you and Happy Christmas!

If anyone is interested in volunteering their time by becoming a “Next Link Elf” and helping us sort and wrap the gifts we receive please email

Our team of Elves will help ensure all our families receive gifts and that the gifts they receive are lovingly presented!

If you are available on any of the following dates please get in touch by giving your name, availability and a short paragraph about why you would like to become a Next Link Elf!

Thursday 11th December 5 – 7.30pm
Thursday 18th December 5 – 7.30pm
Saturday 20th December 10 – 1pm

Thank you!

Missing Link thanks Mayor for his assurance that Council plans will not put vulnerable women at risk

On 24th March 2014, Bristol City Council published their draft commission plan for medium level mental health accommodation based services for consultation. In its plan it listed 4 options (page 24) none of which maintained dedicated women-only bed spaces. The intention detailed in the plan was to remove the ring fence which is currently in place and put the bed spaces in a generic pool of 85.

The draft commissioning plan recommended option 4 and detailed the associated “pros and cons”. Under the “cons” of option 4 it clearly accepted that this option would mean a reduction of women only accommodation of 24 bed spaces. (page 26). Effectively this would mean 0 dedicated women-only accommodation.

For this reason Missing Link started a campaign to fight for women only services.

On 21st May 2014 the Council published a clarification document stating that there would be 24 bed spaces of women only accommodation within the generic service of 85 bed spaces and but it did not state they would be ring-fenced.

Missing Link considered this change was a step in the right direction for vulnerable women but continued the campaign in order to fight for the ring-fence to be re-instated. Without this full commitment there was no guarantee that women would not have to share with men.

As a result of our campaign, on the 9th June 2014 George Ferguson tweeted to say that no men would ever be moved into women only accommodation.

Missing Link, who run services for homeless vulnerable women with mental health and complex needs in Bristol, have thanked the Mayor for his categorical assurance that under no circumstances will men be put into the women-only medium support accommodation.

Carol Metters said “We are happy now to accept the guarantee of the Mayor. We were delighted at how many people supported our campaign and signed out petition, we have 2,000 signatures and many of the people who signed it also gave compelling accounts of why women-only services have been important to them. This gives a clear message to the city council about the importance of women-only provision to the people of Bristol”

A successful campaign:
Women-only services protected!

Yesterday (Monday 9th June) it was indicated that the 34 bed-spaces in women-only accommodation would be protected in the new commissioning of homelessness services in Bristol with George Ferguson tweeting:

“No men will be placed in the 34 women-only bedspaces”

Missing Link launched a campaign a few weeks ago following Bristol City Council’s published draft commissioning intentions. These removed the ring fence for 34 dedicated medium support women-only units. They intended to reduce the units to 24 and put them into a generic pool open to men and women.

This meant the choices for vulnerable women would have been severely restricted, as they would have to either share with men or ‘exclude’ themselves from services. We also believe that without women’s designated accommodation, women would be put at high risk of increased mental ill health, sexual attack and abuse.

We see this message from the Mayor as a commitment by Bristol City Council to protect women-only accommodation in its’ commissioning process.

This campaign has been hugely successful and without the support, honesty and compelling stories of the people of Bristol we would not have been able to secure this sort of commitment from both the Mayor and the Council.

Thank you!

Press release…Press release…Press release…03.06.14


Campaign to save women-only dedicated supported accommodation. “Vulnerable women put at risk”

The City Council in its commissioning intentions for medium support accommodation services is removing the ring fence for dedicated women only units. There are currently 34 ring fenced medium support women only units. They intend to reduce the units to 25 and put them into a generic pool open to men and women.

The City says they are committed to women only units within the generic pool but removing the ring fence means that there is no guarantee of this.

Carol Metters MBE, Chief Executive of Missing Link said: 
“The removal of ring-fenced women-only accommodation is a backwards step. We believe that the impact of these changes on women will mean choices for vulnerable women will be severely restricted, as they would have to either share with men or ‘exclude’ themselves from services. We believe that without women’s designated accommodation, women will be put at high risk of increased mental ill health, sexual attack and abuse. Also for some BME women they can risk rejection from their families and culture if they are not housed in a women only service.”

We know that these women are the most vulnerable in the city, they are not only homeless but they have mental health and other complex needs most of which has been as a result of early childhood sexual abuse or current domestic abuse. They need a women only space to begin their journey of recovery.

Women tell us that they don’t want to share with men and are frightened that this might be the case. “If the council is really committed to women only units why don’t they ring fence them as this would make no difference to their intention but would give vulnerable women security that their home would not be occupied by men. I would prefer to live in a car or sleep on a friend’s floor than have men living in my home” Alison current resident.

We know that the demand for women –only services is high. Currently there are more women than men on the Housing Support Register. The High Support and Low Support Services will still have ring-fenced women only units, so it doesn’t make sense to remove it for the medium support services because that is a key part of the care pathway.

We are asking the people of Bristol to support us and to sign our petition to keep women safe by keeping women’s services ring fenced.

For more information please contact
Pommy Harmar, Missing Link, tel. 0117 9251811
If you would like to interview a service user, please contact Pommy to book an appointment.


Note to the Editor:

Current number of medium level support units for women provided by Missing Link is 34.

The proposal is to commission:
• 10 high support units of accommodation designated women only
• 85 medium level ‘generic’ units, ‘to be used in a flexible way to meet the needs of clients including women only households sufficient to meet demand’

In the current commissioning processes for high support and low support services women only accommodation is designated and protected, however the specifications’ intention is to unprotect the women’s medium support services.

Find out more on our campaign
Twitter: @MissingLink_MLH, don’t forget to #savewomenonlyservices

Please sign our petition

Women’s Services are under attack.

We are launching a campaign to save and protect women’s services and
we need your support.

Help save vital resources for women tweet

#savewomenonlyservices @GeorgeFergusonx

and follow @MissingLink_MLH

Please join this campaign and sign the online petition: 

Missing Link’s response to the BCC commissioning of medium level support units for women.

Bristol City Council has published their draft commissioning plan of medium level support accommodation units for consultation. In the plan it lists 4 options (page 24) none of which maintain dedicated medium support level women only units. Currently there are 35 dedicated units for women in the city.

The Draft Commissioning Plan recommends option 4 and details the associated pros and cons.  Under the cons of option 4 it clearly accepts that this option will mean a reduction of women only accommodation of 24 units’. (Page 26)

The medium level support commissioning plan proposes
• 10 high support units of accommodation designated women only
• 85 medium level ‘generic’ units, ‘to be used in a flexible way to meet the needs of clients including women only households sufficient to meet demand’

We welcome the development of 10 high dedicated support units for women; however they are at the expense of losing the dedicated medium level units which are essential to the care pathway for vulnerable women.

In the current commissioning processes for high support and low support services women only accommodation is designated and protected, however the specifications’ intention is to unprotect the women’s medium support services.

They intend a massive shift in service provision for women yet the rationale for the options they have put forward is not evidence based. In fact the data / background they present contradicts their reasoning and there is no explanation for this. This data includes take up of services, recovery outcomes and move on rates into mainstream housing providers including the private sector. Also women who use the services consistently feedback the positive outcomes their have achieved and the value of having a women only space to rebuild their lives and overcome trauma.

Vulnerable women will be exposed to greater risks regarding their safety and their mental health and their recovery journey made much more fearful and difficult to sustain.

The proposed specification in effect decommissions the current service which will mean a loss to Bristol of 35 dedicated female units currently being provided by a specialist women only service. The female staff employed by the service will lose their jobs with a woman only employer and this will particularly impact on the service users who are now employees.

The current woman only service is in a unique position in that it is exceeding its key performance targets unlike the current generic services yet the city wishes to replace the protected woman only provision and make everything generic.

The Equality Impact Assessment / proposal states that at least 30 women only medium level support units will be “retained” (rather than protected) and redistributed to ‘where the need is greatest’. However women are over represented in the social housing sector with 55% of the Housing Social Register female. The majority of units are in shared housing not self-contained.

Women with mental health issues and other support needs may feel intimidated or powerless and struggle to assert their needs in a mixed shared environment. Many of the current service users are young women, many having experienced early sexual trauma / abusive relationships. Housing them with men is very likely to make them more vulnerable and increase their risks. Men using the generic services have chaotic life styles and are also vulnerable with support needs which can mean they fail to recognise or understand women’s boundaries.

The absence of designated women only units in the medium services creates a gulf in service provision between Level 1 and 2 high support women only services and the low support women only services. Where are women who want protected women only housing meant to go as they make their transition? The proposals significantly reduce choice for vulnerable women as women only provision may not be available.

The proposals / options presented show no real commitment to protect the women only units in particular no strategy to manage this in shared housing where the majority of units are located.

The impact of these changes on women would mean choices for vulnerable women are severely restricted as they would have to either live with vulnerable men or ‘exclude’ themselves from services. Some BME women will risk rejection from their families and culture if they are not housed in a women only service.

It is well documented that women only services are essential for women with mental health/complex needs. There is a disconnect with these commissioning intentions as BCC recognises the need for women only protected services for high and low services but not these medium services.

The current service provider is Missing Link – it is a women’s led organisation, with 30 years’ experience of providing services for women in Bristol. This history, reputation, knowledge and their sister domestic and sexual violence services add value to the holistic support that these very vulnerable women need.

By the specification shifting to providing all generic services Missing Link is excluded from bidding for any of the units including their existing services, because the specification requires flexible units that have to be used by both men and women.

There is an ambivalent use of language in the documents, and lack of specifics about how they will designate and protect women only services. We believe that by default the needs of men will be given more weight than the unmet needs of women as a direct result of broadening the services.

We feel the scope and reach of the service user consultation was not extensive enough with women (particularly since the biggest impact will be on them) BME groups or people with mental health issues who currently / may use the services.

Remember to tweet #savewomenonlyservices
and follow @MissingLink_MLH

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Missing Link, Next Link and Safe Link have organised an exhibition of service users’ art and creative writing:


One in four women will experience mental ill health in their lifetime

Featuring pieces created by women as part of a transformative process the exhibition will run as part of Southbank Arts Trail on 17 & 18 May

We would like to invite everyone to the launch of our exhibition on

Friday 16 May from 6.30pm to 8pm

at The Elephant House
1 Dean Street, Bedminster Bristol BS3 1BG


The exhibition will feature an acoustic live performance, poetry reading, refreshments and to view of the art work created by Missing Link, Next Link and Safe Link service users. There is also a chance to win art work created by local artists!

Please keep an eye on our blog.

to keep up to date with what’s happening!

PCC Sue Mountstevens attends Next Link candlelit vigil

On average 2 women per week are killed by a violent partner or ex partner in England and Wales.

Next Link organised a candlelit procession and vigil in Bristol on Monday to raise awareness of domestic violence and to say to anyone affected by these issues ‘you are not alone’.

Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens joined the procession from Queen’s Square to College Green. Two candles were lit to remember the two women a week who lose their lives as a result of domestic violence, and a minute’s silence was held. Carol Metters, MBE and Chief Executive of Next Link, spoke about domestic and sexual violence and a poem was read by PCC Sue Mountstevens.

Sue Mountstevens said:
“It was an incredible feeling to be part of a movement that is so strong, bringing men and women together to raise awareness about domestic and sexual violence.

“Every day I am still shocked and saddened by the fact that two women a week are killed as a result of domestic abuse and I feel that the lighting of a candle is a powerful and poignant symbol of acknowledgement.

“The vigil aimed to raise awareness with passers-by and let anyone affected by these issues know that there are support services who can help and that they are not alone.”

Next Link has already received calls from people asking for advice and support as a result of seeing the walk.

If you, or someone you know, is affected by these issues, you are not alone. Next Link’s support services can help.

For more information, confidential help and advice please call 0117 353 3853 or see Southern Arc’s contact us page.

Twitter users, please follow @NextLinkHousing