Centre of Excellence

In 2017, Rose Mahon was appointed Head of Excellence to oversee this work. Rose started at The Nelson Trust as a therapist in 2001. She developed services throughout the Trust including in 2004, the first trauma-informed women’s residential house and then in 2010 leading development to launch the award-winning Women’s Community Centre in Gloucester.

Working with complexity

Our strength based collaborative approach, views women as a human being first, not just someone with needs and risks, but someone with strengths, interests, personal experiences and goals.

We know that many of the women that come to our service or need our service have had traumatic experiences in their lives and find it difficult to trust; We ask the women ‘what has happened to you?’ instead of ‘what is wrong with you?’ This opens up the conversation about how they have survived difficult experiences in the best way they could, finding strength in the most desperate of situations. This usually translates into take up of our service from women who are usually perceived as ‘non-engagers’.

residential treatment

Whole systems approach

We work in partnership with service providers, commissioners, policy makers and decision makers to come together to form a joined up strategic approach.

Our services are underpinned by comprehensive support systems and methodologies that includes, assertive outreach, dedicated Women’s Centres, advocacy and support approaches, custody liaison and diversion, prison in-reach and residential treatment as part of a gender responsive, trauma informed approaches.

Dual diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis refers to individuals who have both substance dependence and also a diagnosed mental illness. The Nelson Trust has worked with dual diagnosis clients since 2000. Over the years we have developed our treatment programme to cater for those struggling with both an addiction and mental health problem. Our experienced staff offer professional and therapeutic skills to the clients which helps them manage their symptoms and any necessary medication. We also have links with NHS mental health services if required.

mental health

Trauma informed approach

A trauma-informed service feels safe. The Nelson Trust is a place where you can build trust, develop choices, work closely with others, and ultimately make your own decisions. We will support you with sensitivity and compassion. We will be honest, reliable, consistent, open and fair and if we need to challenge you, we will do so respectfully.

The Nelson Trust has continually developed trauma informed services utilising the principles of choice, empowerment, trust, collaboration and safety to support our clients to break free from trauma and addiction and work towards fulfilling their potential.

In 2017, we introduced our Becoming Trauma Informed (responsive) Guide Team who champion the principles and ensure all our services, staff and volunteers have the tools they need to become trauma responsive.

Gender responsive treatment

Our gender-responsive treatment builds on the work of Stephanie S. Covington, Ph.D., L.C.S.W. Evidence shows men and women who enter gender-specific alcohol and substance use treatment programs tend to stay in treatment longer and have better outcomes than those who don’t.

When we create treatment plans for our clients we take into account how their gender impacts their experiences:

  • Men and women may develop addictions for reasons specific to their gender
  • Men and women are likely to respond to addiction treatment in ways specific to their gender

Griffin Programme

The Griffin Programme at The Nelson Trust was developed by Kirsty Tate to enable women to heal from the long-term effects of sex working. Based on research conducted at The Nelson Trust and informed by our thirty years of experience in abstinence-based rehab, this is a pioneering approach that enables women with a sex working history to recover and thrive in the community. This specialist programme is delivered at The Nelson Trust’s residential service in Stroud.

Enabling Environments

We were awarded Enabling Environments Quality Mark in 2018 for our women’s residential programme and are working towards the same for our mixed residential services in 2019. The Enabling Environments Award is a quality mark given by The Royal College of Psychiatrists to those who can demonstrate they are achieving an outstanding level of best practice in creating and sustaining a positive and effective social environment. This award certifies that we are a place where people can develop, grow and flourish. It indicates we have a developed, healthy social environment, we promote healthy relationships, and overall we are effective in creating positive outcomes for everyone involved (including management, staff, beneficiaries and visitors).


Our SWOP model is firmly at the pioneering forefront of successful delivery. We received a commendation in the women category of the The Howard League Community Awards in 2018.

In 2017, Rose Mahon (Head of Excellence) received the Criminal Justice Champion award from the Howard League for Penal Reform for her work advocating the cause of disadvantaged women in the Criminal Justice System.

Niki Gould, our Head of Women’s Community Services, received a prestigious Outstanding Achievement award from the Longford Trust (2017) for her groundbreaking work with women in the Criminal Justuce System. As part of her prison work, Niki set up Re-unite Gloucestershire, supporting women in prison to be housed on release and to be re-united with their children.

External evaluations
External evaluations

The Care Quality Commission reported our residential services as ‘good’ across all areas, with positive leadership and staff passionate about providing good care.

Different elements of our services have been independently evaluated by John Moore’s University Give It Up project , Lancaster University and the National Addiction Centre at Kings College, London. We specialise in working with addiction, women with a sex working history and those who have experienced trauma. We offer 12 or 24 week residential treatment with 24hr staffing, individualised packages of care alongside evidence based programmes focusing on maintenance of abstinence and emotional resilience.

Staff have presented at regional, national and international conferences about our work. We have won multiple national organisational and individual outstanding achievements awards. We have attracted annual ministerial visits and multiple Royal visits.

An independent evaluation of SWOP by Lancaster University has praised the project for its highly effective crisis intervention, on the streets at night and case work through the day. The service is trauma informed, gender-specific and non-judgmental.

“I have evaluated 35 projects in 15 years, in some of the toughest social conditions and inequality in England; SWOP is the most important and impressive work I have ever seen,” said Dr Susie Balderston, who ran the research project by Lancaster University.

The research was conducted from 2015-2018, by Distinguished Professor Sylvia Walby OBE, UNESCO Chair Gender Research Group and Dr Susie Balderston, from the UNESCO Centre for Violence and Society at Lancaster University.

The SWOP Co-ordinator role and the evaluation were funded by Lankelly Chase Foundation, to share learning and improve future provision.

The Nelson Trust also took the top prize in the Social Care, Advice & Support category for SWOP at the 2019 Charity Awards. The Charity Awards the longest-running and most prestigious awards scheme in the charity sector. The shortlist is chosen by an independent panel of expert judges, themselves all eminent figures in the charity sector. The judges score each entry against six Hallmarks of Excellence before coming together for two days of challenge and discussion to select the winners.


As an award-winning charity specialising in delivering holistic, trauma-informed services to people with multiple and complex challenges, we now provide a range of CPD accredited one-day training courses for statutory, third sector, health care professionals and commissioners. We have delivered best practice training across the UK in:

  • Trauma informed approaches
  • Substance misuse and recovery
  • Working with sex working women
  • Liaison and diversion
  • Drug awareness
  • Working with complexity
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