UK's only refuge for women with learning disabilities holds Christmas craft fair

Published on 16/12/2021

Women living in a refuge have been using their creativity to help others – selling handmade decorations to raise money for a domestic abuse charity.

Residents from Beverley Lewis House made over £130 for AVA, a UK charity committed to ending gender-based violence and abuse, at a Christmas fete held at St Mark’s community centre in Beckton.

Managed by charitable housing association, L&Q, it is the first time the supported housing service has run an event of this kind.

Festive items on offer ranged from tree decorations and snow globes, to candle holders and wreaths, transforming the hall into a winter wonderland with bursts of golds, silvers, reds and greens.

The fair took place on Thursday 9 and Friday 10 December during the 16 days of activism against Gender-Based Violence, an annual international campaign that calls for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.

Based in an undisclosed location in London, Beverley Lewis House is a refuge for women with learning disabilities or autism who are fleeing, or at risk of, abuse or violence.

Opened in 1995 by East Thames Housing and now run by L&Q’s care and support subsidiary, L&Q Living, it is the only service of its kind in the country.

An award-winning care provider with highly trained staff, the scheme’s team bridge the gap between services for victims of domestic abuse and services for people with a learning disability.

Staffed 24/7, the purpose-built unit can accommodate up to seven women, who stay an average of two years, with previous residents able to access support after they have left.

Social activities are a vital part of life at Beverley Lewis House, as residents take part in weekly art, drama or yoga sessions, cook together and regularly socialise in the communal area.

Lisa Scivetti, L&Q Living Locality Manager, said:

“I’m so proud of our residents and so pleased to see the joy this winter fete, and our arts and crafts group, has brought them. Helping others in the way they’ve done today is one way they can cope with, or heal from, the trauma they’ve had to endure in the past.

An arrival at Beverley Lewis House marks a new chapter in the lives of the women we support. After facing the most difficult of circumstances, including abusive situations and multiple disadvantages, our refuge takes vulnerable women from a place of crisis to a place of sanctuary.

Creative projects help victims of domestic abuse to reclaim their confidence, agency, and sense of identity – the very things they have been robbed of, that are fundamental to a happy and healthy life.

Our first fair was a great success, with all items sold in just shy of 24 hours, and we look forward to holding more in the years to come.”