Worthing Women Only Breakfast Club: Worthing probation officer wins awards for breakfast club initiative

A probation officer in Worthing has won a national award for her work with vulnerable women, setting up a ‘safe space’ where they can meet, receive support and find hope and inspiration.

Worthing Women Only Breakfast Club was launched in February last year, in collaboration with KSSCRC, the Kent Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company.

Emmy Mercan, a probation officer for 22 years, helped develop the club following her success with a similar group she set up in Crawley around four years ago.

She has won three awards for her innovation, including a recent National Probation Award, recognising the success of her breakfast clubs.

Probation officer Emmy Mercan and Morrisons Worthing community champion Jo Easey, centre, at Worthing Women Only Breakfast Club with agents Caroline Middleton, outreach worker for Yada's The Esther Project, and Louis Gilbert from the charity cgl

Emmy said: “I set it up because there were no services for women. We had a lot of chaotic people on our caseloads and they were just what we call revolving doors, in court, on probation, out and in again.

“I said no wonder they are going in and out of the system, because we have nothing to engage them. I wanted to prove it could become sustainable, and we are indirectly helping the system.

“It blew me out of the water the attention that we got and then people wanted it replicated.”

The club provides coffee, breakfast, conversation and empowerment on Monday mornings in the upstairs annexe at the Sidney Walter Centre, Sussex Road, Worthing. It is open to any vulnerable women, not just those on probation but women in safe houses and the homeless needing support.

Emmy said: “The idea is to bring everything under one roof, a one-stop shop, signposting to services relating to mental health, sex work, drugs, employment, jobs, in a safe space.

“It is very informal and friendly. They engage and it goes from there, all we need to do is give them a nudge. It is giving them a sense of purpose.

“We encourage people to talk because if they don’t talk, we can’t help them. We are led by the girls and it works, it is a success.”

Emmy said the club could not run without the support of Morrisons Worthing and the store’s community champion, Jo Easey, who attends every week and provides both the breakfast and arts and craft materials.

Jo, an abuse champion, said: “I am just here for someone to speak to.”

She first got involved last year and started with providing cereals but soon realised the women would benefit from hot meals.

Jo added: “I realised how many people are dropping through the net. We have got to be there for them.”

Jo plans to pitch the idea to Morrisons to roll out support nationally, so similar clubs can be set up across the country.