centre 56

A beacon of hope in Liverpool – 50 years of Centre 56

An old photograph of children getting onto a mini bus for a day trip - approx 1975

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For half a century, Centre 56 has been a place of safety and hope in Kirkdale, Liverpool. Our remarkable charity has been a lifeline for families who have faced the harrowing realities of domestic abuse and crisis situations.

In this post, we look back on the 50-year journey of Centre 56, highlighting our unique approach to supporting families, and the profound impact it has had on children’s lives.

Early years

The 1970s laid the groundwork for a more compassionate and proactive approach to tackling domestic abuse.

As an issue that was often seen as a ‘private matter,’ little to no support was available for women looking to leave abusive relationships.

It was only right that a resistance led by a number of brave women, would start to form. The first women’s shelters were set up around London in the early 1970s, providing a means of escape from abuse for many women.

Centre 56 was established as part of this movement, by two Liverpool doctors willing to stand up for change. Dr Basil Levy and Dr Cyril Taylor founded Centre 56 in 1973, making it the first women’s refuge outside of London.

They had become increasingly concerned about the injuries sustained by women at the hands of their partners, and worse still, the effect it was having on the children, who were witnessing the violent arguments and attacks.

An old photography of children dressed as pirates in Centre 56's refuge

Ahead of their time

Their approach to supporting families was nothing short of pioneering. When we were founded, awareness and understanding of the impact of domestic abuse on children was limited. However, Levy and Taylor had already identified the need for comprehensive, child-centred support, and forged a path that was way ahead of its time.

Research has consistently shown that children exposed to domestic abuse are more likely to develop emotional and behavioural problems, struggle academically, and face a higher risk of entering abusive relationships themselves. Centre 56 recognised this long before it became a widely acknowledged issue and set out to break this cycle of suffering.

A child-centric approach to support

Over the years, the offer of the charity grew, and in 2004, their specialist creche became Ofsted-registered (previously the QA).

Today, childcare is the core offer of the charity.

Children who have witnessed abuse face different challenges as they develop. The specialist practitioners at Centre 56 are primed to give them the extra support they need to develop their confidence and self-esteem, improve their mental health and wellbeing and learn how to regulate their emotions and behaviours. It’s a nurturing, safe space for children to rebuild their trust in the world.

We aim to help the children we care for break free from the cycle of abuse. They grow up with a strong sense of self-worth and the belief that they deserve love and respect. This, in turn, influences their choices in adulthood, creating a ripple effect of positivity in their families and communities.

A canvas reading 'Big dreams for little one's' decorated with children's hand prints

Support for families in crisis

While our priority will always be the child, care extends to the whole family. Using our community networks, we connect parents and carers to vital support services, empowering them to break free from the cycle of abuse and build a brighter future for their children.

The Rainbow Room at the nursery is always fully stocked with children’s clothes of varying sizes, toiletries, and sanitary items. The pantry shelves are always stocked with store cupboard staples for families to take what they need. It is a place where parents don’t have to worry about judgement if they ask for help.

“Just imagine, a single mum with no income, one child, and one on the way, on the verge of losing our home. There were days I wouldn’t eat until my son came back from school so we would have enough. I wouldn’t turn on the heating until my son came home so there would be enough electricity for a shower.

As soon as Centre 56 heard about my situation, my life changed. Every week, I had food on the table. Every week, I had gas and electricity in the house.” – [2020]

A mother and child in the nursery garden

The next 50 years

A lot has changed in 50 years, but sadly not enough. Still, people are finding themselves trapped in abusive relationships, unsure of how to leave.

One in four women will be affected by domestic abuse in their lifetime, and two women a week are killed by their partner or ex-partner in England and Wales. In Merseyside, the situation could be worsening, recording the highest amount of domestic-abuse related crimes since 2015 in 2022.

Despite 50 years of service, our work is far from over.

There are still countless families in crisis who need help, and together, we can ensure that Centre 56 remains a beacon of hope for the next 50 years and beyond.


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