ONE of the original founders of Berkshire Women's Aid (BWA) has been awarded an MBE.

Jannette Cooper, 81, who is now chair of BWA, has made the 2019 Queen's Birthday Honours list.

She 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 was training to be a social worker in the 1960s when she met a young woman who was regularly beaten up by her husband.

The 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, she 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, the 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 - a rare expansion in the current financial climate for women's refuges.

Altogether, there are now eight 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, which was 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.

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 have published extensively on their a approach to safety and safe therapeutic practice where violence is of concern.

Jan and David still live in Reading, and have three children and five grandchildren.