Hackney domestic violence charity fears services for victims could be impacted in premises dispute

Sistah space was founded after the brutal murder of Valerie Forde and her baby daughter after Valeri

Sistah space was founded after the brutal murder of Valerie Forde and her baby daughter after Valerie had reported a threat to kill to police. Pictured are Valerie's daughter Carrise, former speaker of Hackney Claire Potter, Ngozi Fulani Sistah Space (SS), SS Djan youth ambassador and SS patron, reggae singer Stushie aka 'Miss Reggae Gold' - Credit: sistah space

The founder of a domestic abuse charity fears vital services will be affected if the council enforces plans to move its premises back to a building she says is “too small”.

Sistah Space was originally given until the middle of June to vacate its current council’s commercial premises in Mare Street to a former venue in Lower Clapton.

However, the council has now offered to extend its current temporary arrangements in Mare Street until “at least the end of July” due to a shared concern over the wellbeing of the charity’s largely African and Caribbean heritage staff and service users at greater risk of Covid-19.

READ MORE: Diane Abbott wants public inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities.

Founder Ngozi Fulani set up the charity in 2014 to help women of African and Caribbean heritage escaping domestic violence.

She said: “If we’re forced to leave our current property we’ll lose all of our volunteers, have to severely restrict the service and be unable to fulfil our duties to domestic violence victims.”

She says the move will have a “devastating affect” on the charity, but the council say it has invested £35,000 in refurbishing and modernising the Sistah Space’s previous premises on request - to provide “safer, more secure and modernised facilities for staff and women seeking help”.

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The council says it has honoured four requests to improve the operational functionality of the building, including securing its front door, adding an internal partitioned room for private meetings, installing an emergency escape and upgrading heating and electrical systems. More work is said to be underway.

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A council spokesperson said: “Sistah Space does incredible work to help communities of African heritage affected by domestic abuse, which is why we support their work.

“Although Sistah Space had agreed to move back to their new premises once refurbishment was complete, we understand their concerns about moving at this time and have offered to extend their current temporary arrangements.”

The council says its project team also went to great lengths to agree the detailed specification of works with Sistah Space, including the layout of space, materials and colour schemes.

Still, Ngozi says the “shop front” which the charity has been asked to return to is too small to be of any practical use and worries the area, which is isolated and dark in the evenings, may deter people seeking help.

She says since moving into its current premises, the charity has been able to accommodate for a large increase in service users and volunteers.

READ MORE: Hackney domestic violence charity warns Covid-19 lockdown is pressure cooker for abuse

She has asked the council to let the charity stay in its current venue for at least six months or until its contract ends on March 2021 to allow time for a more adequate building to be found.

For more information on Sistah Space visit https://www.sistahspace.org/

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