2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours – Award of Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) – Jan Cooper, Berkshire Women’s Aid (BWA) 

Jan Cooper said, “I was completely surprised and very proud when I heard that I had received an MBE award. I am happy to accept on behalf of BWA and all the women and children who have sought refuge in our houses over the years”.


Jan came to Reading with her husband David Cooper in 1970, and worked as a psychiatric social worker with Berkshire County Council. Jan and David have 3 children and 5 grandchildren.

In the 1960’s when Jan was training to be a social worker she met a young woman who was regularly beaten up by her husband. The young woman said that she took the blows “so her children didn’t have to”.  When Jan asked how she could help, she replied, “I can see you’re a nice woman, but there’s nothing you can do”.  Jan knew this was unacceptable, and was determined to find a way to help.

In 1974 Jan helped to set-up Berkshire Women’s Aid – providing a safe place for women and children at risk from domestic violence to live safely, receive support and plan for the future. Forty five years later, this original refuge has recently been refurbished and was opened by the Mayor of Reading, Deborah Edwards. There is also a new 12 bedroom refuge that has been opened on the same site.  This is a rare expansion in the current financial climate for women’s refuges.  Altogether there are now 8 refuges in Reading, Bracknell and Wokingham.

By establishing the first safe house in Berkshire, Jan and her co-founders made a brave, and at the time controversial, moral stand. Because of the establishment of Berkshire Women’s Aid, thousand of women and children who have suffered violence have been able to secure refuge from harm.  Without BWA many more women and children would have been injured or killed by violence in the home.

What makes Jan’s contribution to the issue of domestic violence so unique is what she did next.

Jan realised that to make a meaningful change it was important to engage directly with the perpetrators of violence, the abusive husbands, boyfriends and partners and to think about how complex these relationships are. It was also important to understand the needs of the children and to keep them safe.

At the time it was a radical idea and was met with considerable hostility from both the professional community and many of those working in the Women’s Refuge movement.

In 2004, 30 years after helping to set up the first safe house, Jan was asked to join the Board, later becoming Chair. She used her experience to establish the highly innovative Family Choices programme.  Family Choices, was a unique in the women’s refuge movement, with its emphasis on working in groups, Women’s Group, Children’s Group and Men’s Groups, to try to help the entire family break out of repeated behavioural patterns and create a non-violent future for all members. This ground breaking idea has successfully transformed the lives of many hundreds of families and kept women and children safe.  Later a service was developed offering individual counselling to men as a preparation for the group work.

In 1999 Jan was also the co-founder of Reading Safer Families with Dr Arlene Vetere. This was a dedicated family violence intervention service. Jan and Arlene also provided  training in working with domestic violence, by regular workshops, conference presentations and consultation to multi disciplinary teams both in the UK and aboard.  Jan and Arlene have  published extensively on their a approach to safety and safe therapeutic practice where violence is of concern.

Jan Cooper Biography

1973 – 1992. Child and Family Guidance Therapist for Berkshire County Council. Mostly working in the greater Reading area as a social worker, child therapist and family therapist.

1974 onwards. Helped set up the first women’s refuge in Berkshire and gave thousands of hours of unpaid effort over the next 44 years. She continues to be a board member for the charity.

1992-1996. Taught courses on domestic violence at the Family Institute in Cardiff, the Institute of Family Therapy in London and the Universities of Sheffield and Reading.

1996 – Set up ‘Reading Safer Families’ with Dr Arlene Vetere, a pioneering practice focussing on the perpetrators of domestic violence and specialising in working directly with their families.

2010 onwards. Developed Family Choices, an innovative project for Berkshire Women’s Aid that aims to reduce the violent behaviour of perpetrators and establish a non-violent future for them and their families.

2010 – 2019. Despite being 81 years old, Jan together with Arlene, continues to teach around the UK in the techniques they developed for keeping women and children safe. They teach regularly in countries as varied as Malta and Norway where their writings have had a significant impact in the family therapy community.



Amazon Smile

We have signed up to Amazon Smile . Please support Berkshire Women’s Aid  by selecting us as your chosen charity (login to your Amazon account via Amazon Smile, search for Berkshire Women’s Aid and then select). Thank you for your support.


New Refuge Building

We are looking for NEW bedding for our new refuge building:


Bedding Sets (duvet covers and pillow cases – colours: teal, sky blue, plum or neutral colours).

If you can help with any of the above please contact Helen on 0118 9500182 or email



Reading Outreach Drop In Service

Reading Outreach offer a Drop-In Service every Tuesday from 10am to 3pm at following location:

Reading Voluntary Action (RVA), 3rd floor, Central library, Abbey Square, Reading RG1 3BQ.


Please note the drop in service is open to Reading Residents who are experiencing or require support around domestic abuse.

We are unable to give immigration advice around Brexit. For information please check the website


For advice and support outside of the above or for Bracknell and Wokingham areas please call our Helpline on 0118 950 4003 or contact us via our website (contact us page).


Thank you to the Reading Rotary Team for building additional storage at refuge

Additional refuge storage


BWA would like to give big ‘thank-yous’ to some of our wonderful fundraisers who have given their time for BWA   

Donations received 27.11.18Donations received 28.11.18

Thank you to 52 Lives and all of their supporters for the donation of Christmas gifs for the children and ladies in refuge.


Micro Focus Donation 17.12.18

Thank you to the staff at Micro Focus for their donation of children’s Christmas gifts.


NCEC santa run (2).jpg 05.01.18

Thank you to the 52 runners from NCEC for raising £411 from entrance fees and donations at their 5k Santa Sprint.


Wellington Country Park Donation of cuddly toys 20.12.18

Thank you to Wellington Country Park for the donation of cuddly toys.


Bayer Donation received 18.12.18

Thank you to the staff at Bayer for their donation of children’s Christmas gifts


Donation from St James Finchampstead 14.12.18

Thank you tothe congregation of St James Church Finchampstead for the donation of Christmas gifts & treats, toiletries, baby items and bedding.


 Shoe Boxes 06-12-18.jpg 1

Thank you to the Friends of BWA, Caversham Tiles and all of those involved in donating and collecting shoe boxes.


St Mary's Burghfield received 03.12.18

Thank you to St Mary’s at Burghfield for the donation of toys and toiletries.           


Terry Dixon Vote100 Walkabouts

Thank you to Terry Dixon for his donation of £846 from the proceeds of his Vote100 Walkabouts over the last 9 months. The money will go towards white goods for our new refuge building.


BWA Garden 2018 Team 2 Before2BWA Garden 2018 Team 2 after2

Before                                                                             After

TSP Projects, Reading Team are supporting Berkshire Womens Aid  by making the garden at one of our refuges habitable again for our residents to enjoy whilst we are having such glorious weather.  A set of garden furniture was very kindly donated by a member of their team. (See before and after photos).


Allegis Group BeforeAllegis After

                         Before                                                                                                After

Thank you to the group of volunteers form Allegis Group who donated their time to sort out the garden at of the BWA refuges. They also donated garden furniture and plants.


                       Before                                                                                          After

M&S Before           M&S After re-sized

Thank you to the group of volunteers from M&S Corporate who donated their time to sort out the garden at one of the BWA refuges  and also helps us purchase the garden furniture and gardening tools.



Nationwide May 2018

Thank you to Nationwide for their kind donation of £5056 toward fixtures and fitting for two bathrooms in our new refuge building.


Trevor Southampton Marathon

Well done and thank you to Trevor Kettle who ran the Southampton Marathon On Sunday 22nd April in 4:02:02; a fantastic time in the heat. He has raised £371 so far for BWA and it isn’t too late to help him reach the £400 mark; thank you to everyone that has sponsored him so far.





Reading Pride (5)

Reading Pride (4)

Thank you to everyone who supported BWA at Reading Pride on Saturday 2nd  September 2017. A special thank you to Redlands WI who were fundraising for BWA at the event.


Welcome Packs NCS Programme

Thank you to the National Citizen Service Programme – Reading for the donation of welcome packs


Caversham Court - Community Quilt (1)

Thank you to all of those involved in the Caversham Community Quilt for raising £1144.45


Thank you to Preeti Verdi for raising £ 833.44 running the British 10k on 9th July 2017


Plant Sale & Coffee Morning 19-05-17

Thank you to all of those involved is raising £952 from Plant Sale and Coffee Morning in aid of BWA on 19th May


Thank you to Curves Gym for the huge donation of food and Wokingham Fire Brigade for assisting with the packing and delivering of food to our refuges


Thank you to Reading Othodontic Centre for their donation of welcome packs


Thank you to Reading Soup where BWA for their donation of £210.

Link below to Soup blog:

March Reading SOUP event: £210 donated to Berkshire Women’s Aid


Thank you to Reading Lions for their donation to Berkshire Women’s Aid


IMG_1547 (3)



The Inner Wheel Club who raised £600 for BWA



A BIG thank you to the volunteers from Cisco who donated their time last week gardening at our refuges, It was as great success despite the weather conditions!



Bearwood Lakes Golf Club Ladies section raised an amazing £7000


Thank you to all- your support and kindness is invaluable in supporting the work BWA do in the community