First Step is a thriving service with a committed team of 25 volunteer counsellors. We provide almost 2,000 sessions per year to male survivors of abuse and rape aged 13+.
First Step exists because of the tenacity and determination of Alistair Hilton and Tony Magee – themselves survivors – and a small group of committed volunteers. Challenging the silence surrounding male survivors and the overarching message to ‘leave well alone’, First Step was launched on 29th May 1997.
From humble beginnings
Like many charities, we spent our early years in a single rented room with little resources. During this time Tony Magee was instrumental, volunteering his time to support men calling the helpline and visiting First Step. He provided training to Police Officers and Social Workers at De Montfort University and inspired a generation of volunteers. Tony devoted much of his life to ensure that First Step got off the ground, flourished and survived the dark times – including when funding was thin on the ground and it almost floundered. He was with us for almost 20 years until having to step back for health reasons. Tony sadly passed away in 2019 aged 68 (1951-2019).
It is testament to the need for a counselling service for male survivors, the commitment of staff/volunteers and the timely support of funders that we were able to make that leap from a small scale operation to a thriving organisation.
Developing infrastructure and gaining funding
In 2010 we went through a period of organisational change and growth, led by Cas Beckett as Service Manager. We looked afresh at what we were doing and how this is best accomplished – ensuring our policies, procedures and operations were up to scratch. Victim Support offered us desk space and, with additional funding, we began to reach out more – supporting men, challenging stigma and raising awareness with other professional agencies.
With each amount of funding – from large and small charitable trusts and foundations, as well as the Ministry of Justice – we have strengthened our provision and slowly increased our core team of volunteer counsellors.
A new beginning
Originally a registered charity, we became a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) in 2016 which enabled us to take on the lease of a shop-front location in Leicester City Centre. Facing the Town Hall Square, our bright and comfortable offices are ideally located and include a number of counselling rooms. Whilst our shop front is discreet, our location gives a clear message that there is no need to hide in the shadows.
Developing our services
We do not rest on our laurels and are committed to continuous improvement, taking on board the views of the clients we serve. In recent years we have extended our age range to include teenagers aged 13+, developing age-appropriate support. We have strengthened the support we are able to offer for supporters (e.g. parents, partners and other loved ones). In response to demand, we have also launched an advocacy service and peer support group.
“Your work brings light to dark places and hope and a future to this once broken man. Thank you for your loyalty and dedication you have shown to me. You’ll be on my New Year Honours list!”
We have robust processes in place to ensure the feedback and needs of clients are carried forward to our Management Team, ensuing all developments have the views of clients at their core.
A strong and committed team
First Step is a partnership between our Management Team, staff, volunteers, clients, funders and the professional agencies we connect with. Our collaborative approach is a key strength that has helped us survive a challenging pandemic and go from strength to strength.
From 2019 – 2021, we supported 265 clients in our counselling service through almost 4,000 sessions. That is 265 men and boys that had the opportunity to talk to an empathic and supportive person about a topic that remains taboo. We have come a long way, yet we realise there is still so much to do.