Closure fears for Sweet Arts group which helps hundreds of vulnerable women in Norwich

Toni Lawton, project manager of Sweet Arts. Photo: Bill Smith

Toni Lawton, project manager of Sweet Arts. Photo: Bill Smith

An organisation which helps hundreds of vulnerable women turn their lives around through the creative arts has warned it will have to close in two months if it cannot find a sustainable source of funding.

Many women suffering from mental health problems, domestic violence, addiction or depression are referred to Sweet Arts, based at the 4 Women Centre in Colegate, Norwich, by mental health, GPs, probation and other services.

However, the not-for-profit group receives no funding from statutory services, and warned that, despite receiving smaller grants for specific projects, it will have to shut down if it does not receive an injection of funding to cover some its core costs.

In January, the organisation, which was founded in 2006, stopped its five-day-a-week, skills-based training, which helped give 250 women a year skills they needed to come off benefits and go into work, because of financial difficulties.

Now, its twice-weekly, open-access drop in sessions, where women take part in creative activities such as textiles or sculpture with support workers who are also artists, are also under threat.

Project manager Toni Lawton said: 'We need the statutory services who are pushing people our way to send money our way. To save Sweet Arts we really need a year's funding, to look at a more sustainable income streams.'

Asked what would happen in the group closed, she said: 'It will impact on their services because the women we work with are progressing. They are not using these statutory services as much. They are not turning up at A&E or being arrested or using medication.

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'Without us, they would be lost. I think a lot would revert back to disfunctional lifestyles. They have found something that they really work for, and then to have it taken away would have a very negative effect.'

She said that £91,000 would cover Sweet Arts' full costs, including training sessions and wages, and the cost of the services worked out at £1 a day for each woman it helped - many of whom are either mothers or carers.

Ms Lawton said the group was especially interested in hearing from people with business skills to help support its future financial development. Email

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