In safe hands

28th February 2019

A group of women whose lives have been transformed by learning the art of manicures and pedicures are now lifting other women out of despair.

They’ve all successfully completed a course to become nail technicians in a purpose-built salon at the Gateway 4 Women centre in Carlisle and are now mentoring the next intake of students.

Gateway 4 Women is a subsidiary of Cumbria Gateway, which was set up in 2011 to address issues around homelessness, substance misuse, mental illness and domestic abuse.  It offers accommodation, structured programmes, drop-in breakfast clubs, skills training and work experience opportunities plus practical and emotional support to help vulnerable people recover and develop a positive healthy future in the community.

Cumbria Gateway received its first grant of £2,500 in 2011 to help towards equipment and furnishings of 4 flats. Since then, it has received more than £107,000 in grants. Grants have helped towards a breakfast club for homeless people. The breakfast club’s aim, with the help of peer mentors,  is to reach out and inspire those that might be considering a new way of life. It has on average 26 regular attendees. Other projects supported included a handy person scheme and a peer led support service to support vulnerable people across the area to access much needed help and support.

In 2017 it opened a new women’s only centre, Gateway 4 Women, to provide vital services that were not already available in north Cumbria, and has received more than £52,000 in grants. Based in Denton Holme, the centre is an educational and therapeutic one-stop shop for vulnerable women in Cumbria. It supports women who have been the victim of domestic violence, or who are undergoing drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes, those suffering with mental health issues and other vulnerable groups.


The beauty salon is open to the public and the accredited Nail Technician Course runs from there. Last year, the funding enabled 12 women to study the nine-month course and has given them the confidence to rebuild their lives. Some have gone on to use their qualification and skills to set up their own business or to work within the centre’s in-house salon.

Nicole started at Gateway 4 Women as a client accessing the support, she said: “After building up my confidence and self-esteem by participating in the course, I started to volunteer at the centre. That led me to become a full-time member of staff, helping to run the salon and mentoring clients.”

Denise attended the course and now volunteers in the salon at the centre, she said: “This was a new start for me, learning something new. It has given me back my confidence and a chance to make new friends and a new qualification. To then go on and be able to volunteer at the salon has been amazing. Here I can gain experience in a salon environment and also make my clients feel better about themselves.”

Angela participated on the course last year, as a mentor. She said: “Personally, I really enjoyed it and it has helped my confidence in my supporting abilities. I have enjoyed working with the ladies on the course and helping them to achieve their goals.”

Emma, who also completed the course in 2018, said: “This was an opportunity to work in a safe environment and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about nails, hands and feet. It has also helped me massively with my confidence and self-esteem and to make new friends.”

The course started in January and is fully subscribed. Another 12 women will have the opportunity to learn new skills and build their confidence while working with previous students who now volunteer as mentors.

The centre wouldn’t survive without grant funding and motivated volunteers who get together and make things happen.