- Female offenders to be diverted from life of crime with targeted support
- Women helped to get off drugs, off the streets into work
Women whose crimes have been fuelled by addiction, mental health issues and domestic violence will be better supported to stop reoffending thanks to new government funding.
With over 60 per cent of women in prison having experienced domestic abuse and 50 per cent having drug addictions almost £21 million will be invested in women’s services to tackle the causes of female offending and cut crime.
Organisations such as Working Chance, the UK’s only charity dedicated to getting women with convictions into work, support offenders who are serving a community sentence or have recently been released from prison and may be at risk of reoffending.
This tailored support, which can range from help to find a job or support with drug and alcohol abuse, can provide stability in getting their lives back on track – ultimately helping to keep the public safe.
Without specialist support in the community, statistics show that half of women who have been in prison will go on to reoffend, contributing towards the £18 billion cost of reoffending to the taxpayer.
A further £3.6 million will be allocated to help local services, such as mental health support and drug experts, work more closely together to support female offenders. This will include funding local coordinator roles, who would help to bring government and third sector organisations together to provide a better service.
Prisons Minister Stuart Andrew said:
Female offenders are often driven into crime by poor mental health, drug addiction or abuse.
This investment will make sure we support women facing these problems away from crime and into the help they need to get their lives back on track.
Tackling the root causes of female offending and providing vulnerable women with early support is a key part of the Female Offender Strategy, with many women who commit low-level crimes being driven by underlying factors such as substance abuse, trauma or difficulty in getting a job.
Katie, 39, who spent 6 months in prison and has been helped back into employment through Working Chance, said:
Mounting debt and mental health issues all contributed towards my offending, but I was determined to take responsibility and start getting my life back on track.
Working Chance gave me the support needed to rewrite my CV, prepare for interviews and the confidence to disclose my convictions to potential employers.
While women who commit the most serious crimes will always be sent to prison, custody should always be a last resort. On top of the £24 million funding, the government is also piloting a £10 million Residential Women’s Centre in Swansea, to reduce the number of women sent to prison.
Female offenders at the centre will receive one-to-one mental health therapy and counselling to address their trauma from previous abuse and support to overcome substance misuse.
This is alongside plans to pilot a new Problem-Solving Court targeted at women with complex needs, including drug and alcohol abuse.
Female offenders sentenced at the court will see the same judge or bench of magistrates for regular reviews, receive intensive support and supervision from the Probation Service and have access to services for drug and alcohol abuse, and support with housing, training and employment.
Since 2018, almost £55 million has been invested to support female offenders. New specialist staff have been recruited to support pregnant women and mothers in prison, and charities and community organisations have also received funding to keep services running.