Calls to the national domestic abuse helpline rose by more than a fifth during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. In response to this increase in cases, Stopcocks Women Plumbers established the National Register of Tradeswomen to ensure that vulnerable householders, who might feel safer with tradeswomen, are able to find them.
A non-profit organisation, the National Register helps householders to find a fully verified tradeswoman in their area, and has plans to enable women to train in trades and access funds to do that. Mica May, who is part of the team at the Register of Tradeswomen, writes for Northern Soul about the importance of the register ahead of a new course, a short Introduction to DIY, funded by Comic Relief for survivors in West Yorkshire.
Many women suffer at the hands of abusive male partners after a tradesman has carried out work in their homes. Using tradeswomen reduces the number of these incidents, but at the Register of Tradeswomen we go even further and work with survivors to enable them to train in the trades.
Speaking to hundreds of tradeswomen over the years, many of them have said things to us like, ‘I’d be in the gutter now if I hadn’t trained in trades’, ‘training as a tradeswoman saved my life’, ‘I was at rock bottom and didn’t have anything to live for, I started training as a plumber and my life started to improve’, ‘I can’t believe how far I’ve come when I look back over the last five years, from several suicide attempts to running my own business’, ‘I had nothing and somehow I managed to drag myself to college every week. Now I am completely independent, I work for myself and have as many holidays as I want. Life is sweet,’ and, ‘I wanted a way I could support my kids and not feel like such a victim. In the first place I just wanted to fix my own home, but using big tools felt like it’d make me stronger. It certainly did. My kids are so proud of their strong, independent mum’.
These comments have made us aware that it’s not unusual for women to come out of abusive situations and turn their lives around, or ‘fix themselves by fixing stuff’. Out of nowhere, women find the strength to retrain and go into an industry that isn’t known for employing women. They show amazing resilience and resourcefulness.
Our original company, Stopcocks Women Plumbers, started more than 30 years ago in Leeds as Stopcocks Woman Plumber. Hattie Hasan, herself a survivor, recognises that ‘fixing herself’ is exactly what she did when she left teaching and retrained as a plumber. Unable to find anyone who’d take a chance on employing a woman of almost 30, she decided to employ herself and, via a day release scheme, went to college. She has never looked back.
Over the years, Hasan has looked at many ways to help other women do what she managed to do, and was awarded an MBE in 2020 for this work.
In 2012, Stopcocks became a national company and began to receive calls from householders and refuges looking for a one-stop-shop for tradeswomen. In 2017, the firm began running events for women plumbers after recognising that isolation and lack of role models were factors contributing to the lack of significant growth in numbers.
Then, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a horrific rise in domestic abuse cases and the murder of women by their partners. Hasan realised that it was time to begin a national service connecting tradeswomen with householders and so she set up the national Register of Tradeswomen. She did this by creating a Crowdfunder and contacting the tradeswomen already known to her organisation.
A short pilot led to a launch on March 1, 2021. The launch of the Register was featured on Morning Live on BBC One and this led to us being inundated with calls and messages of support from people across the UK. Many householders who phoned and emailed told us how vulnerable they feel with strangers coming into their homes to carry out work. They explained that they’d feel much safer with tradeswomen and were appreciative of the Register of Tradeswomen’s verification process.
The RTW provides the only service of its kind, and demand shows how much it is needed. A scarcity of tradeswomen remains an issue and the organisation carries out considerable work to raise the profile of tradeswomen as a first step to increasing our numbers.
RTW is a not-for-profit and our aims are to enable householders to choose tradeswomen, to increase the number of women in skilled trades, and to support and empower survivors of abuse to train in skilled trades.
By Mica May, Register of Tradeswomen
To help women begin their journey into the trades, the Register of Tradeswomen will be running a short Introduction to DIY funded by Comic Relief for women in Yorkshire. The course is free to join and will take place in January at Todmorden Learning Centre and Community Hub. Places are still available.
- understanding what goes on in your home and how to control it
- how to turn off water/isolate appliances
- how to deal with the smell of gas
- dealing with a ‘tripped’ main fuse
More tradeswomen are always needed as demand for all trades, especially plumbing, heating engineers and electricians, outstrips supply throughout UK and especially in the North. Increasingly, householders are requesting tradeswomen trained to install and maintain sustainable energy systems.
To contact RTW, phone 07706 763883 or email email@example.com.
Hattie Hasan and Mica May talk about the Register of Tradeswomen during a recent appearance on BBC One’s Morning Live.