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Theme

Women, homelessness and the criminal justice system

This theme explores the issues surrounding involvement in the criminal justice system for women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and is being led by Expert Group member Catherine Hennessy, Director of Development and Partnerships at Revolving Doors. Read the theme round up here.

In an accompanying blog , Catherine writes: “Lurid tabloid accounts of those who kill or harm children garner many more column inches than stories describing the experiences of the much larger number of girls who are suffering abuse and trauma day after day. Yet, when these girls grow up traumatised and angry, we are all too quick as a society to forget the origins of that trauma, labeling and stereotyping them as lags, prostitutes, and junkies.”

A survey of St Mungo’s female clients shows that 53 per cent have an offending history; 36 per cent have been to prison. Understanding what experience have lead women to come into contact with the criminal justice system, and what in that system can help or hinder their recovery, is key to helping support women to live a life away from homelessness.

How do we make sure women get the right help, at the right time? We want to hear from practitioners on the ground and from women using services themselves, about what works and what support is missing, in particular:

  • Any support services that work with women offenders, including homelessness, substance use and mental health organisations
  • Police and Court/Magistrate actions with vulnerable women, including those involved in prostitution and impact on homelessness / vulnerability
  • Early intervention and Court Liaison and Diversion Services that prevent homelessness
  • Women’s prisons and services that support women leaving custody including resettlement
  • Support for ex-offenders, including preventing re-offending and supporting recovery

Please also submit any relevant research so we can gather this together to improve the support out there for women.

If you have already joined the campaign, please log in to submit evidence. If you are not already a member, please click here to register. Send us your contributions on this theme by 26 April 2013.

 

Theme started on: 08 Mar 2013

28 Submissions

  1. Gillian Nowland

    One25 is a Bristol Charity reaching out to women trapped in street sex work and addiction. Between July and December 2012 we worked with 224 women. 55 of these women received intensive support to reduce / stop offending behaviour.
    Of these 55 women 45% were supported in custody, 5% have been supported around conditional cautions, 54% have been supported around criminal court proceedings and 11% have been supported in court around offending behaviour.
    One woman said:
    “When you see everyone else getting letters from their friends and family and you’ve got no-one – it hits me hard y’know? So when I got your card – I cried, it made my week….it’s up decorating my cell”

  2. Jane Martens

    RAPt delivers drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes, both in prisons and in the community, to help people overcome the grip of addiction. In 1992 RAPt established the very first treatment programme in a UK prison and is now the leading provider of intensive, abstinence-based treatment for men and women in custody. In addition to effective treatment, RAPt works to tackle some of the root causes of addiction – poverty, unemployment, homelessness – that keep people locked in a cycle of re-offending.

    At HMP Send in Surrey, the RAPt Women’s Substance Dependency Treatment Programme (WSDTP) has been developed to address the specific challenges faced by women in prison. Female prisoners are 35 times more likely than the general population to be suffering from mental health disorders (male prisoners 14 times) and seven times more likely to be addicted to drugs (men five times). Over half of the female prison population has a history of domestic violence and one in three have experienced sexual abuse. Women are also far more likely to be solely responsible for the care of children than male prisoners when they are taken into custody. Imprisoning women will therefore cause greater disruption to the lives of their children, including placing them at greater risk of imprisonment in later life.

    The RAPt programme at HMP Send is an intensive, rigorous process which seeks to fundamentally change the perceptions women have about themselves and their ability to make changes in their lives. As well as learning strategies to overcome drug and alcohol abuse, women are encouraged to explore the underlying causes of their addiction, to consider education and training opportunities and to build a sustainable plan of recovery.

    After completing the programme, aftercare and resettlement support from the RAPt team is available for as long as needed. Family services are a core part of the programme and helping women re-engage with their children and other family members can continue into the aftercare phase. This aspect of the work is tailored to meet the individual needs of each of the women and will generally include one or more Family Conferences to give every family member a chance to voice their experiences and find a way to move forward together.

    Once a release date is known, the RAPt team liaise with probation and community agencies to ensure no-one is homeless when they leave prison, has somewhere safe to go and someone to meet them at the gate.
    For more information on all of our services see: http://www.rapt.org.uk

  3. Anita Dockley

    The Howard League for Penal Reform is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison. Too much money is spent on a penal system which doesn’t work, doesn’t make our communities safer and fails to reduce offending.
    We work with parliament and the media, with criminal justice professionals, students and members of the public, influencing debate and forcing through meaningful change to create safer communities.

    We campaign on a wide range of issues including women in the criminal justice system. We recently commissioned Professor Jo Phoenix to undertake research into the policing and criminalisation of sexually exploited girls and young women. The research intends to improve understanding of the way in which practitioners make decisions about whether or not to prosecute sexually exploited girls. It looks at the ways in which many commit crime to try and escape the men who exploit them or as a cry for help. Issues around housing and homelessness are included in a number of the young women’s stories. ‘Out of place: The policing and criminalisation of sexually exploited girls and young women’, and other relevant research on women can be accessed at: http://www.howardleague.org/publications-women/

    For more information on The Howard League for Penal Reform see: http://www.howardleague.org/

  4. Kristina Maki

    Bethany House is a supported housing scheme for homeless women. Our clients have varying support needs including drug and alcohol misuse, mental health, learning disabilities, and experience of domestic violence. We have also become increasingly aware that a high number of our clients have experienced some form of sexual violence and many are involved in prostitution. We therefore arranged training through Eaves on how to support clients involved in prostitution and work with them to exit if this is what they want to do. As a result of attending this training, a Project Worker at Bethany House and I began work on a policy that would provide a statement of how ICH views prostitution, namely as a form of violence against women and girls, and how staff will support their clients who are involved in prostitution. The policy provides keyworkers with a framework for the support they offer clients. It emphasises the fact that women involved in prostitution should be offered support to exit and that this should be presented to them as an option when they disclose involvement, rather than viewing prostitution as just another form of employment. The policy recognises other clients’ right to live in an environment free from prostitution, and the fact that many activities linked to prostitution are illegal. It therefore seeks to balance provisions for locality management with working in a client-centred way to support women involved in prostitution.

  5. Laura Smith

    On 22 March 2013 the Government published a document outlining the Ministry of Justice’s strategic priorities for female offenders. They announced that an Advisory Board, led by the Justice Minister Helen Grant MP, will be established to advise on implementation.

    The four key priorities are:

    “Ensuring the provision of credible, robust sentencing options in the community that will enable female offenders to be punished and rehabilitated in the community where appropriate. We are committed to ensuring all community orders include a punitive element. Other options such as tagging and curfews can also be used to provide greater monitoring and structure to offenders’ lives.

    Ensuring the provision of services in the community that recognise and address the specific needs of female offenders, where these are different from those of male offenders.

    Tailoring the women’s custodial estate and regimes so that they reform and rehabilitate offenders effectively, punish properly, protect the public fully, and meet gender specific standards, and locate women in prisons as near to their families as possible; and

    Through the transforming rehabilitation programme, supporting better life management by female offenders ensuring all criminal justice system partners work together to enable women to stop reoffending”

  6. Nicola Drinkwater

    Clinks is a national umbrella body that works to support the Voluntary and Community Sector working with offenders in England and Wales. Clinks represents the Sector and its service users to decision makers in the Criminal Justice System (CJS), to provide them with a voice in policy making and to influence practice.

    On 10th December, 2012 Clinks and partners hosted a national event entitled Breaking the cycle of women’s offending: where next? The event was chaired by Dame Anne Owers with keynote speakers including Helena Kennedy QC and Professor Michele Burman. Attended by over 125 delegates from the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS), the Statutory Sector and academics, discussions during the event focused on what the future should look like for women and girls at risk of offending and how real change can be achieved. Clinks have published an event report, detailing key recommendations formulated during the conference that can be found at: http://www.clinks.org/assets/files/Clinks%20Women’s%20Conference%20report%20FINAL.pdf. We have also fed into the Justice Committees inquiry into women offenders that can be accessed here: http://www.clinks.org/assets/files/PDFs/Clinks%20RR3%20Response%20to%20Justice%20Committee%20Inquiry.pdf

  7. Eva Roussou

    Together is a national mental health charity that has been supporting offenders with mental health and wellbeing needs since it set up its Forensic Mental Health Practitioner Service in 1993. This service now operates 18 projects across London Magistrates Courts and Probation Offices, including three dedicated Women’s Court Liaison and Outreach Projects – at Thames Magistrates’ Court, Westminster Magistrates’ Court; and Camberwell Green Magistrates’ Court.

    The Women’s Forensic Mental Health Practitioners proactively offer a mental health and wellbeing assessment to every woman in custody that appears in Court. They submit on the day reports to the Court with sentencing recommendations that address areas of mental health and social care need and support sentencers to consider alternatives to custodial sentences, where appropriate. The Service is also available to women on bail. In addition to the above, the Service offers outreach support and ongoing interventions, working closely with Probation. These aspects of the Service, combined with the expertise in our team, are designed to support women to comply with bail conditions, complete their Community Orders and contribute to reducing their re-offending.

    The plethora and complexity of issues faced by women in contact with the Criminal Justice System has been well document in a number of reports, including the 2007 Corston report, whose recommendations are yet to be followed by a reduction in the numbers of women sent to prison. To support frontline criminal justice staff in identifying and responding to women’s complex needs, we have recently launched a guide. You can download a copy of ‘A common sense approach to working with women with health and wellbeing needs in the criminal justice system’ here.
    Among these issues, lack of stable or safe accommodation is, in our experience, a common reason why many women are refused bail or are unable to comply with bail conditions. Recognizing the importance of this factor, our women’s projects in East and South London run in partnership with St Mungo’s as well as with the local NHS Trusts. Our practitioners work closely with St Mungo’s Housing Workers to ensure women can access appropriate accommodation on the day they appear in Court and therefore are not remanded for the sole reason of not having a suitable bail address.

    • Eva Roussou

      You can download a copy of ‘A common sense approach to working with women with health and wellbeing needs in the criminal justice system’ here.

  8. OIWG

    Comments from the Outside In Women’s Group held at St Mungo’s women’s semi Independent accommodation project, Chepstow Villas:

    ‘I have had good and bad experiences with police. On one occasion even though I was thrashing about and being aggressive, the female police woman understood why so was patient with me. The first time I was arrested a police man who was 6 foot 3 tackled me to the ground, I am small so that was really unnecessary force, he physically hurt me quite badly.’

    ‘We need to do more work to find out why woman are offending, and actually listen to the reasons’

    ‘We need more female bail hostels, in Luton there was one male one but none for women so it was more of a struggle to find accommodation on release’

    ‘I think there is an increase of young women being involved in gangs, sometimes it starts with them going out with a gang member but they can get drawn in and become full members. The drugs and violence involved leads to offending / homelessness’

    ‘When I was in prison I did a detox from alcohol but when I came out I was housed with other drinkers and this made me relapse’

  9. Jo-Anne Welsh

    Brighton Oasis Project (BOP) exists to support women with drug and alcohol problems and provide care for children affected by substance misuse in the family. We have over 15 years experience working with women Our services for adults are gender specific to address the underrepresentation of women in treatment services and address their specific needs. We have particular expertise in working with children affected by familial substance misuse via Young Oasis. BOP’S aims are to reduce the harms caused by drug/alcohol misuse to individuals/families and communities. Our portfolio of services includes the provsion of a community sentence ( Drug Rehabilitation Requirement) for women whose offending is linked to their substance misuse. This group of women have complex needs and insecure housing is the norm for most of them, sofa surfing or living in a hostel is the most typical situation. We use an holistic approach in working with women and recognise that making them feel safe is a prerequisite to change in behaviour. For many their goal is to eventaully have their own home but this can be a long journey in a city where affordable accomodation is in short supply.

    Cath’s Story demonstrates how the DRR can be effective in enabling recovery for women with long standing drug problems.

    “Oasis helped me when I need it most. I was ordered to do a Drug Rehabilitation Requirement (DRR) and initially was very reluctant. My lifestyle was chaotic and I found it hard even to be in the group. I felt resentful that I had to go there. I felt hard done by. After attending intermittently and been breached (for non attendance) with the help and support of the workers and the girls in the group I decided to commit 100% and after my first clean test – that was all I needed to motivate myself. With all the support from BOP and probation, I turned my life around. I have now been clean from illicit drugs for 8 months and I m off my medication.
    I m now facilitating smart recovery at BOP. I have completed a counseling course. I now have accommodation of my own and I realise I have a future to live. I m now doing “recovery champion” training at BOP and have got plans to carry on with other study, I m hoping to do the community justice award.
    I have started to rebuild my relationship with my estranged children and family who I now see regularly.
    I believe that I was in the right place at the right time and ready to stop my substance misuse. The DRR was just what I needed to help me get my life back on track.”

    http://www.oasisproject.org.uk/

  10. Rose Mahon

    The ISIS Women’s Centre, based in Gloucester, offers support, guidance and practical help to women offenders and those who are at risk of offending. By addressing issues which may have contributed to offending behaviour, we aim to divert women away from custody and towards a more stable future.

    The centre was established by the Nelson Trust and was set up with funding from the Ministry of Justice. ‘It has been suggested that women with un-met support needs may be at risk of offending. The consequences of which can be devastating’ (Corston Report 2007).

    Through our partnerships with other organizations, we can offer a wide range of help, support and information on:

    • Family support services, with an in-house crèche
    • Housing benefit and debt
    • Domestic violence
    • Life skills
    • In-house courses, leading to qualifications
    • Accommodation
    • Emotional wellbeing and self-esteem building
    • Substance misuse

    http://www.isiswomenscentre.com/nelson-trust/

    Attachments:
    1. Case-Study-JW.doc
  11. Nicola Drinkwater

    Clinks is a national umbrella body that works to support the Voluntary and Community Sector working with offenders in England and Wales. Clinks represents the Sector and its service users to decision makers in the Criminal Justice System (CJS), to provide them with a voice in policy making and to influence practice.

    http://www.clinks.org/ 

    On 10th December, 2012 Clinks and partners hosted a national event entitled Breaking the cycle of women’s offending: where next? The event was chaired by Dame Anne Owers with keynote speakers including Helena Kennedy QC and Professor Michele Burman. Attended by over 125 delegates from the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS), the Statutory Sector and academics, discussions during the event focused on what the future should look like for women and girls at risk of offending and how real change can be achieved.

    Clinks have published an event report, detailing key recommendations formulated during the conference that can be found at: http://www.clinks.org/assets/files/Clinks%20Women’s%20Conference%20report%20FINAL.pdf.

    We have also fed into the Justice Committees inquiry into women offenders that can be accessed here: http://www.clinks.org/assets/files/PDFs/Clinks%20RR3%20Response%20to%20Justice%20Committee%20Inquiry.pdf

  12. Louise Warner

    Womenspace – Support for Mental Health & Wellbeing – A Kirklees Women’s Mental Health and Well Being Service – creating welcome space for all women.

    What do we do? -Our approach to women’s mental health and wellbeing is to look at the whole woman. We recognise the effects that abuse, discrimination, physical and mental ill-health, financial pressure, unemployment, relationship conflicts and other issues have on our overall wellbeing. Womenspace works in both North and South Kirklees and offers: drop-in, counselling, one-to-one support, group work, self help groups, creative approaches, confidence building, eating disorder groups, pregnancy testing, links to community groups, community building, anger management, walking groups, information knowledge and other opportunities. We also have a Women in Exile service which offers support to asylum and refugee women, and those who are destitute. We have a time banking scheme developing, a clothes, and food parcel service.

    http://www.womencentre.org.uk/

  13. Jane Glover

    The Re-Unite project focuses specifically on mothers in prison, who will be homeless upon release. This status applies to many women; particularly those serving sentences of more than 13 weeks who lose their tenancies whilst in custody and are often classed as ‘intentionally homeless’ on their release. With many women we also find that their tenancies have not been correctly ‘closed’ when they entered custody and they then face unmanageable rent arrears when they are finally released.

    91% of children whose mothers are in prison are placed in some sort of formal or informal care while their mother is away. If mothers are unable to find housing on release, these children are left ‘in limbo’ for even longer periods. Re-Unite therefore exists to liaise with Prison, Probation, Social Services and Housing providers to ensure that women and children are reunited in suitable, stable housing as quickly as possible.

    As well as providing one-to-one support to the families, Re-Unite projects set up trusting relationships with housing providers: Housing Associations and private landlords make housing available and we then provide tenants who are appropriately assessed and very well supported. It is a mutually beneficial relationship.

    In the last year we have supported 28 women into suitable, safe housing. Twenty-four of those women have been reunited with their children in a family home and four women are in single person accommodation while they work towards regaining care and custody of their children.

    There are five organisations currently running Re-Unite projects in South London, Birmingham, Gloucestershire, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester. We are always looking for new organisations to deliver the Re-Unite programme and for housing providers to get involved. For more information visit our website http://www.Re-Unite.org.uk

  14. Samantha Dumoulin

    Sova is a charity that works in the heart of communities in England and Wales to help people steer clear of crime. We do this by making sure that when people find themselves in difficult situations that they have someone on their side to help them make better choices so they can stay out of trouble and build better lives. And it’s something we’ve done for more than 35 years.

    Our experience has shown us that for people to see new possibilities for themselves, they need to believe they can make good decisions. They need their family and friends. They need financial stability and the chance to work. They need a home. Quite simply, they need a second chance. Whether it’s about finding a job or friends, understanding how to manage money or discovering new prospects we help people change their lives for the better.

    By supporting individuals and families to deal with the troubles that are holding them back in life – Sova helps to create a safer, stronger, fairer society.

    Attached are two case studies about our work.

    Rachel’s story

    Gemma’s story

  15. Stephanie Burke

    Rylease Raising the Status of Women is a charity designed to help female offenders and ex offenders of an ethnic and Muslim background who are in the criminal justice system in the UK.

    We give full support and offer a range of services to help these women and girls to get back their confidence and respect they deserve. Female prisoner’s and ex- offenders who have committed crime or who have been released need more chance’s at maintaining a healthy and stable life. These women and girls are very important to society as they are mothers, daughters, sisters; women who assist, grow and nurture children of tomorrow.

    Our intention of making a difference and helping to turn around lives is our goal for these women and girls. Our aim is to take care of those that have been forgotten or frowned upon in society. To show them that they are not alone because of their wrong mistakes, which has landed them in a situation beyond their control.

  16. Lisa Dando

    Inspire is a partnership project across five women’s organisations in Brighton with its central point of location at Brighton Women’s Centre. Inspire works with vulnerable women at all stages of involvement in the Criminal Justice System. The spectrum includes: early intervention identifying and supporting women away from crime as part of the national Liaison and Diversion scheme; providing community sentences for women on specified activity requirements; prison in-reach and community re-integration post release for women who have served less than a twelve month sentence.

    http://www.womenscentre.org.uk/index.php?What_We_Do:Inspire_Project 

    Inspire offers practical and emotional support where women are empowered to address the multiple complex and interrelated needs that sit beneath their offending behaviour. Women who access Inspire have needs in at least four of the nine pathways highlighted in the Corston Report (2007). One of the strengths of the partnership is that women who come to Inspire are able to access a range of specialist support services and activities on-site. These include: family work; domestic and sexual violence; mental health; debt and benefit support; counselling; mentoring; drop-in; fare share (free food); alternative therapies; creative groups; employment support; parenting courses; anger management courses and Thinking Ahead 4 Women offending behaviour course.

    A key issue for many Inspire clients is the lack of appropriate accommodation in Brighton. There is currently no women only hostel accommodation in the city. Without safe accommodation it is extremely challenging for women to address the many additional needs they face on a daily basis. Inspire adopts an evidenced based approach to working with vulnerable women recognising that women need to be listened to and need to believe they can change before they can benefit from practical support.

    A recent snapshot of Inspire clients identified that from a cohort of 28 women surveyed, 20 (71%) had housing issues. The snapshot affirms concerns that often housing needs of vulnerable women are hidden from view. Of the 20 women who had housing need, 16% identified as rough sleepers while 32% were living with violent partners or in families where they feel unsafe. When women are in abusive relationships they are often isolated, which can in turn impact on their ability to engage with services. 21% of the women who are of no fixed abode (NFA) are sofa surfing, often swopping sex for a place to stay. Women can be caught between staying in an unsafe relationship or sleeping rough. Without appropriate women only supported accommodation in the city, women are trapped in a web of dangerous options regarding their accommodation, which in turn further impacts on their engagement with services and their ability to address their additional needs. 26% of the cohort identified that their housing was impacting on their ability to engage with services.

    Women offenders often have multiple complex needs. In this snap shot 50% had at least three additional needs, with 26% having drug and alcohol issues and 47% having mental health issues. If women are to leave the criminal justice system it is imperative that their basic human need to be safely and securely accommodated is met so that they can start to address their additional needs. Housing needs and a history of trauma and abuse are just two of the many complex and interrelated needs that Inspire clients so often demonstrate as Lily’s story highlights.

    CASE STUDY
    Lily was referred to Inspire on specified activity requirement to attend for 20 sessions. She had a history of offences and presented with multiple needs. She was suffering from PTSD as a result of a long history of abuse and trauma: she was lonely, isolated and alcohol dependent. Her current relationship was very abusive and, as a result of, numerous police call outs to her address, her tenancy was also at risk. Lily’s partner would follow her to appointments and try to discourage her attendance at appointments, potentially putting her in breach of her order and facing a custodial sentence. Lily was referred to MARAC due to the high level of abuse she was experiencing and her case worker supported her to cope with the multiple appointments by arranging for workers to be introduced to her during Inspire sessions. The consistent and non-judgmental support of her Inspire worker helped Lily to make the decision to leave her relationship. At this point she was about to lose her accommodation and her case-worker helped her address the practicalities involved in keeping her tenancy. By the end of her order, Lily had ended the abusive relationship, had stopped drinking, the anti-social behaviour case against Lily had been closed, she was receiving compliments from her neighbours and had started voluntary work in a local charity shop.
    What Lily said about Inspire: “I was being understood, being heard and for the first time in a very long time. I was not left on my own to deal with the mountain of problems that arise. I felt empowered to get through this terrible time and Inspire encouraged me to take a very long hard look at myself and recognise that I had much healing to accomplish”.

  17. Gill Hurley

    Gibran UK is a Social Enterprise that specialises in working with socially excluded groups, in particular female ex-offenders.

    http://www.gibran-uk.co.uk/

    We are currently embarking upon a new project CONNECT following successful implementation of our GOING HOME project for women ex-offenders which was designed to assist those who slip through the net of existing services. The overall aims of GOING HOME were to support and build the confidence and self esteem of women and provide the opportunity to give something back and help others who may have been through similar experiences by becoming a peer mentor.

    The GOING HOME team’s experience of working with women ex-offenders in Wales recognised that women need support when released or at any time in their lives when living with a conviction. The project focused on women ex-offenders living in or returning to Wales, who required support rebuilding their lives, who were not or no longer dependant on drugs or alcohol and who may have been out of custody for some time and are looking for help.

    In our new project CONNECT we will be working with women ex-offenders – to support their resettlement, reduce re-offending and help them to find work. CONNECT will be delivered across Wales to support 800 women ex-offenders.
    We will help women ex-offenders in Wales to settle back into their communities through peer mentoring, access to new technology and around the clock telephone support. Women will be helped through peer mentor and buddy networks.

    CONNECT will enable women ex-offenders to help themselves and tackle the root causes of reoffending. Both the peer mentor and the women ex-offenders will be provided with the temporary loan of a `tablet`. By providing reduced reoffending interventions via Skype and hand held devices, the project will improve women’s sense of well being and combat isolation. This will replace some of the face to face communication and the costs and difficulties associated with traditional outreach work.

    To read our full press release on CONNECT please see below.

  18. Joy Doal

    Anawim women’s centre in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, is a day centre for vulnerable women. It acts as a one-stop shop for women with multiple needs such as substance misuse, poverty, homelessness and domestic violence. Anawim offers women offenders community sentences which offer high levels of support to break the cycles of re-offending and act as an alternative to custody. A range of different agencies come into the centre and Probation staff are co-located reducing the need for women to attend appointments at other locations around the city. The centre provides food, clothes, social activities, educational classes and a crèche for children whilst the women engage.

    http://www.womensbreakout.org.uk/projects/anawim/

    To view full document please see below together with case history.

    Attachments:
    1. Anawim.pdf
    2. Adrienne.pdf
  19. Donna King

    New Bridge delivers a Befriending Service. Many prisoners do not receive any letters or visits. Most of us need someone to talk things over with – someone we can trust, who doesn’t put labels on us, talks straight, stays in touch and doesn’t make promises they can’t keep. Our Befriending Service aims to support people in prison, by establishing and maintaining contact through letter writing and visiting.

    We work at HMP YOI Low Newton. The Learning Shop, which commenced in 2004, is unique in English prisons, no other project aims to improve women’s mental health and well being through learning. The Learning Shop provides a safe, calm, stress free welcoming and supportive environment which helps some of the most vulnerable prisoners in the country grow in confidence and develop life skills.

    The Learning Shop provides an intimate and supportive atmosphere for reluctant and fragile learners, in particular learners with mental health issues and self harm as well as vulnerable prisoners. A high degree of support is available and time is given to individual learners.

    Staff and volunteers offer support and guidance with a focus on raising self confidence and self esteem, breaking down any barriers to learning. The Learning Shop also provides a facility for those engaged in learning throughout the prison, from work place learners, to Open University Students.

    Our London Through The Gate project commenced in April 2008 and was originally funded by the Big Lottery Fund to develop the befriending services in London, specifically helping short term prisoners with the transition back to life in the community.

    Short-term prisoners are often repeat offenders and can often accumulate a significant amount of time in custody, going round the revolving door. In 2010 The National Audit Office reported that at any one time, short-sentenced prisoners account for about 9 per cent of the total prison population and some 65 per cent of all sentenced admissions and releases.

  20. Rachel Walsh

    Women in Salford who have offended or who are at risk of doing so can access the award-winning TOGETHER WOMEN PROJECT (TWP) and the broad range of services it offers including drug and alcohol support, counselling, parenting skills, employment and training and gender-specific support services.

    Operating from a women only centre – with crèche – and offering a safe and relaxing environment, the project has a number of specific aims – to reduce re-offending; avoid family breakdown; increase access for women to community-based services and to divert women from custody.

    The project delivers services that provide solutions to 9 criminal justice pathways supporting women to break free from offending and the triggers identified as the root cause of offending. The TWP team works closely with a range of criminal justice agencies and has two seconded probation officers on-site.

    It also delivers a women’s specified activity requirement (WSAR) a mandatory option available to sentencers as an alternative to custody.

  21. FPWP Hibiscus is a non-governmental organisation operating to deliver a range of services across the criminal justice sector. The organisation was established in 1986 to champion and advocate for women in or recently released from prison and known then as the Female Prisoner’s Welfare Project (FPWP). In 1991, the organisation commenced specialist work with foreign national BMER women and women with immigration problems.

    In 2012 the organisation started its first piece of work with men in Colnbrook and Harmondsworth IRC, to assist them to make informed choices about returning and resettling to their home countries once they had exhausted all legal rights to stay in the UK.

    The organisation’s main work includes welfare, advice and advocacy in prisons, including with EEA and Roma women; volunteering and befriending of women in prison; campaigns to raise awareness about the risk of being trafficked in Nigeria; assistance with community resettlement and reintegration in the UK and more recently assistance and support on voluntary returns and reintegration in home countries to people in immigration removal centres.

    We provide a practical, impartial and supportive service to women and men who have often suffered stigma, discrimination and abuse. Please browse our website for up to date information on our work or contact us at the address below if you have a specific question or need advice.

  22. Kate Ferguson

    Alana House

    Alana House opened in April 2010 following the Corston Report, which examined the problems of female offending. The project aims to empower women to avoid behaviour likely to lead to criminal offending and so reduce the number of women in custody. Last year, over 300 women sought help from the project. Higher referral rates continue to show a rising level of local need for the service.

    Alana House is the only project of its kind in Reading, and fills a significant gap in services. Other statutory and voluntary groups that provide these services are often uncoordinated and in different locations. For women with chaotic lifestyles, this makes it difficult to get help. Alana House is a ‘one-stop-shop’ where women can get the majority of the help they need in one place, increasing the likelihood that woman will be able to address their needs and become independent women making a valuable contribution to society.

    These sessions will allow the women to address their personal issues such as drugs and alcohol addiction, sex working, domestic violence, lack of education, training and employment, homelessness, and support them and their families, and improve their life chances. The Support Worker will produce an individual plan for each woman who will also benefit from specialist agencies including the Probation Service. Included in these sessions will be support, guidance and advice on budgeting and debt management, benefit applications, housing advice, tenancy issues and resettlement, personal development, education and employment. The aims of these support sessions are to reduce the women’s chaotic lifestyles and improve each woman’s independence and economic situation.

    Attachments:
    1. PACT.pdf
  23. Eurina Butler

    The damage to women who lose their accommodation when going in to prison is unbelievable. Many women are separated from children, have no partner to pay the rent or service charge, so they lose their accommodation, belongings and ID and it becomes very difficult to start again and access accommodation.

    For women repeat offenders they are so used to not having any support when they come out, that it takes time for me to build up trust with them that I will actually go the extra mile to get them accommodation and support with my through the gates service.

    With rent caps and housing benefit changes more women are being pushed away from their families and only have an option or housing out of London. I supported one young women recently access housing in Maidstone, but her family were two far away and she was travelling to Hackney to try and get support, eventually I did manage to help her access housing in Hackney through Social Services but this was a big struggle. If we had more community sentences we wouldn’t have half these problems of women being separated from families.

    With the new housing benefit rates many women will be sent out of London for accommodation as living in London is no longer affordable. This I have already experienced with a number of women leaving prison. This then interrupts the children’s education, and transfer of their probation. Children may be placed on waiting lists for new schools, and other issues can include finding support groups and people to interpret if English is not their first language.

    Culture has a massive impact on women offenders in terms of ability to reconnect with family and housing post release. In many religions a woman who has offended can’t go back and seek support from their community as they will have been cut off.

    A number of women are held on immigration issues. Some are pregnant or already have children in the community where family are looking after them. The family is in hardship as they cannot get any benefit for the children, also some of these families are not aware that they may be able to go to social service for financial support. Claiming Child Allowance can be a long process as often the family or friends do not have guardianship of the children, they are just helping out. Those parents held on immigration issues, when they are released they usually have to stay with friends or family, so there are overcrowding issues. Seeking financial support from NASS can be another issue and I often have to quote the child in need act, then social services will then decide to offer the children money, but nothing for the mother even if she is pregnant, no allowance is made available to her until the child is born.

    If a person is substance user they may have to attend the local office for the methadone. It can be difficult to accompany them for their appointment as they have no accommodation. You may go with them the first day, but the next day or the following week you are unable to get hold of them because they have no address. When they are release from prison with no accommodation, most will go back to those friends who are taking drugs, as the clients know it’s the only way they will have a roof over their head. As a consequence all the hard work and therapy that is done by the women in prison just goes to waste.

    Private accommodation is difficult as they are required to find rent in advance. Usually if you find accommodation, they can apply to Social funds for rent in advance. However with the new changes to benefits, where social funds will be phased out this will become much more difficult. Also women won’t be able to move from their local area, as benefits will be given to the local community where you have a connection.

  24. Laura Smith

    In 2012 The All Party Parliamentary Group on Women in the Penal System and the The Howard League for Penal Reform published a report on girls involved in the criminal justice system: ‘Inquiry on girls: From courts to custody’ (attached below). The findings have possible implications for designing a criminal justice agencies which would help to prevent today’s young female offenders from becoming tomorrow’s homeless women.

    The key points from the report are:

    “•There is a lack of awareness among magistrates and other professionals of the specific needs of girls
    •Girls are being treated more harshly by magistrates if their behaviour contradicts gender stereotypes
    •Girls are being criminalised in courts when no intervention is needed or when they could be diverted to other services
    •Magistrates are confusing welfare needs with high risk of reoffending and increasing the severity of the sentence or ‘up-tariffing’ girls
    •Prisons are not appropriate places for girls, and prison units for girls in adult prisons and secure training centres (STCs) for girls should be closed, in line with the recommendations of the Corston report
    •There is a lack of awareness among professionals of the differing roles and services provided by children’s services and youth offending services
    •There is a lack of gender-specific provision for girls once sentenced
    •The needs of girls are overlooked due to the small number of girls in the penal system
    •Contrary to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, custody is not invariably being used as a last resort for girls
    •Other options such as intensive fostering and multisystemic therapy (MST) are not widely available or widely used.”

  25. Joy Doal

    Anawim’s mission statement is to support women and their children, especially women vulnerable to exploitation including prostitution. It seeks to provide wider positive choices to help them achieve their goals and reach their full potential as part of the wider community. To this end Anawim treats everyone with dignity and respect, recognising that every woman and child matters as an individual. Anawim seeks to work with partners and other agencies to challenge that which degrades and diminishes.

    In April 2012, Anawim started a pilot project in partnership with the Department of Health by creating a Mental Health Alternatives to Custody Project.

    The Preliminary Evaluation Report on the Anawim Mental Health Alternatives to Custody Pilot Project is attached.

  26. Sarah Vernon

    CHEPSTOW HOUSE
    Since February 2010 Brighter Futures’ has effectively supported women from North Staffordshire to stop offending. Chepstow House was established in response to the Corston Report and the growing recognition that women’s offending could be reduced by providing support which helped women address their complex needs including the nine pathways to offending.

    The project has been evaluated by Staffordshire & West Midlands Probation Trust who reported (December 2012) that ““Women who engaged with Chepstow House……had a much reduced reoffending rate compared to all female offenders on probation in Stoke. “ The latest proven reoffending rates show that customers of Chepstow House are almost 30% less likely to reoffend . Keele University produced a process evaluation of the service in 2011 . Both reports are attached.

    Chepstow House helps women to find and keep accommodation, manage their money, deal with debts, overcome drug and alcohol abuse, manage their relationships, be better parents, improve their health as well as accessing training and employment. It also offers counselling and therapeutic interventions to deal with the emotional trauma caused by abuse, rape, domestic violence and sex work.

    We provide the courts with an alternative to custody and imprisonment. We offer activities that fulfil the requirements of a specified activity requirement (SAR). We offer women on SARs 16 sessions, ten of which involve completing an accredited education programme. We currently offer life skills, employability, parenting and an offending behaviour programme. We work closely with the Probation Trust a enjoy the benefits of a co-located PSO and PO based at Chepstow House.

    Brighter Futures is a voluntary organisation that puts the highest professional standards at the heart of all it does. Its` Quality Assurance system is compliant with ISO9001, it has consistently achieved the coveted “excellent” score in the Local Authority Quality Assessment Framework (QAF) for its Supporting People work. It is a “champion” of best practice for the Government Dept of Communities and Local Government and it has just won an NHS Innovation Champion award.

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