Shock as award-winning Stepney women’s project is earmarked for axe

An award-winning project which helps immigrant women in Stepney Green integrate into society is to close next month.

Volunteers were shocked to be told out of the blue that the Arbour Youth Centre will no longer operate women’s services during one of their regular catch-up meetings.

The decision to stop offering womens’ services - including leadership and empowerment classes, a one-to-one mentoring programme and help learning English - has been made by the trustees of St Dunstan’s church in Stepney, which founded the charity.

In an email seen by the Advertiser, volunteers were told the charity “will provide only youth services for the foreseeable future”.

A volunteer, who has asked not to be named, has criticised the decision which she says will prevent some of society’s most vulnerable from having a voice.

“Everyone is shocked because the funding and volunteers are all in place and women are being helped,” she said. “The only problem is that the charity is tied up with the church and the vicar doesn’t want to support women’s services anymore.

“When you see these women on the street you have no idea what their lives are like, so to find out about them is so interesting and it makes London such an amazing, brilliant place.”

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Reverend Trevor Critchlow, chair of Trustees of the Arbour Youth Centre, said a financial risk assesment made last year showed that the charity had “grown too large to operate within its current level of finances and still fulfil its Charity Commission obligations”.

He added: “The Trustees believe that they are fulfilling their duty to ensure the charity is operating within the aims and objectives registered at the Charity Commission and in a financially safe and responsible manner.”

Negotitions about the possibilty of a local charity taking on a similar project are currently underway.

A spokeswoman for The Arbour did not respond to requests for a comment.