Domestic abuse charity thriving despite no public funding

A tiny team helps and houses South Asian victims of domestic abuse
By Victoria Munro

Kiran Support Services received a £10,000 donation from Penny Appeal (credit: Penny Appeal)
Kiran Support Services received a £10,000 donation from Penny Appeal (credit: Penny Appeal)

Tucked away in a nondescript office building, a tiny team do work invisible to almost all residents – but a lifeline to those that need it.

Kiran Support Services, founded in 1989, provides help and housing to South Asian women fleeing domestic abuse, surviving for the last five years without council funding.

Since current chief executive Amtal Rana took over in 2014, the charity has opened its second and third refuges and begun offering immigration support and counselling in Asian languages.

Reliant as they are on “constantly fundraising”, Kiran Support Services was ecstatic to receive a £10,000 donation from Penny Appeal last month, which Amtal said has “been a lifeline”.

Amtal Rana in the Kiran Support Services office

She told the Echo: “We were set up by local Asian women so that, instead of having to knock on relatives’ doors, women had somewhere safe to go for a bit of breathing space.

“We had a young lady come to us five or six years ago, who had been placed with her son in a mixed hostel room. She was so overwhelmed when she arrived because she thought she would have to share everything, she didn’t understand that her room was her own. In the hostel, she’d also had to leave every day and be referred back.

“Now she’s actually picked herself up. She’s living up north, went back to college and is now a qualified teacher, she’s really well settled.”

Back in 1989, Amtal recalls, there was “a lot of opposition” from some older Asian men in the borough, who “didn’t want to admit domestic abuse existed in our community”.

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However, she is also keen to correct the misconception that there’s more domestic abuse among South Asians, arguing this notion “has a lot to do with people’s understanding of different communities”.

She explains: “People often think forced marriages only happen in Asian communities but really it is in all of them. I used to use Pride and Prejudice as an example – people don’t look at it as being about arranged marriages when, really, what is the difference?

“When I started doing this work in 1992… even general society didn’t have a great track record. Domestic abuse was not really at the forefront of people’s minds.

“In the last decade, it’s been slow progress but I do think the local Asian community is much more supportive. That’s not to say we don’t come across any barriers… but it’s come a long way, it’s much better than it was.”

Kiran Support Services has also come a long way, even hiring its own part-time immigration worker, who has been “inundated with referrals”.

Amtal explained this was to avoid referring women to other services “where there might be a lengthy waitlist and they will have to keep repeating their story”.

In the last few years, however, they have begun encountering a new challenge: the growing number of women being rehoused out of London.

Amtal said: “What that does is ostracise women further, which places greater strain on our services. We had one woman who went back to her husband within a week because she was housed in the middle of nowhere and didn’t know anyone… she said she felt trapped all over again.”

Find out more about Kiran Support Services on their website.

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