First Step Leicester Leicestershire and Rutland’s History – its own personal journey
First Step’s History started in 1997, and today First Step is a thriving service with a committed team of 23 volunteer counsellors and a client base of 50 males (aged 13 – 62) accessing face-to-face counselling or emotional support each week.
The reason First Step exists is because Alistair Hilton and a group of committed volunteers, many of whom were survivors themselves found that the advice given when it came to supporting male survivors of abuse was “leave well alone”. As Alistair was himself a survivor he set about the challenge of establishing a service for males.
On 29th May 1997 First Step was launched and over the years has succeeded in supporting hundreds of male survivors to break their silence, to reach out and benefit from our services. It has also contributed to national press articles and conferences in an effort to encourage the growth of what is a remarkable movement for change.
As with many small charities First Step found itself facing imminent closure in February 2010. With a small amount of funding from the Home Office it undertook a complete re-structure. All policies and procedures were reviewed and work began to secure further funding to allow it to reach out further, to break down the stigma and myths associated with the abuse of males and to develop a service that was more readily accessible. In that quest it sought to promote and raise awareness of the service to other professional agencies as well as to individuals.
Having the background of policies, procedures and structures in place it was fortunate to find support, and funding, from Lloyds TSB Foundation. Their belief in our capacity to deliver was the cornerstone of our journey to where we are today.
With funding and commitment from Lloyds TSB we managed to secure additional funding from Lankelly Chase, then from the Ministry of Justice Victim & Witness Fund, our local Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and then from the Lottery who are now funding us until March 2018.
It is unlikely that we would have reached where we are today without the support of Victim Support. In 2010 we were renting a couple of rooms a couple of nights per week when Victim Support offered us the opportunity of having a desk space and, when they moved to the ground floor at Alliance House, the use of shared reception and counselling rooms. This was the foundation we needed and having shared use of premises and staff who worked with the same ethos, we saw our numbers steadily increase. We have benefitted from having a secure building which has offered a discrete yet welcoming, safe environment. We will always be grateful for this offer of partnership working.
Along the way we have been grateful for the support of smaller trusts and foundations such as Helen Jean Cope Trust, The Fuserna Foundation, Market Harborough Building Society Charitable Foundation, Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Community Foundation, The George Ernest Ellis Foundation, The Henry Smith Charity and the Freemasons.
With each amount of funding we have strengthened our provision and have slowly increased our core team of volunteer counsellors to reach our highest figures per week to date. There is absolutely no doubt that without the dedication and commitment of our core team of counsellors we would not be where we are today. We are indebted to each and every one of them.
We have extended our age range from 16 years and above to 13 years and once again this has received support and funding from Lloyds TSB. Undertaking such a move to reduce our age group has taken 2 full years of development and we are currently experiencing an increase in younger males seeking support.
First Step believes in continuous improvement and takes on board the views of the clients we serve and this allows us not to become complacent but to continually reflect the individual needs of its clients. These views are carried forward to our Management Board so that everything we consider has the views of clients at the fore. Their experiences with First Step are as valuable to us as their own personal journeys and will continue to be so.
Working together with a strong Management Team, staff, volunteers, clients and professional agencies we are confident that we will continue to develop and secure the future of First Step so that all males who have been sexually abused in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland have the opportunity of accessing our services.