Women’s Breakout welcomes the report published this week by the Justice Select Committee. We are pleased to see that Sir Alan Beith’s report clearly highlights the need to ensure that the distinct profile of women is recognised in the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms.
Women’s Breakout has 49 member organisations across England and Wales and they work tirelessly to support the complex needs of women within the criminal justice system. They include the network of women’s centres that are referred to in the report, and every year this network of organisations supports thousands of women to reduce offending behaviour by addressing underlying vulnerability in a one stop shop approach.
Whist we recognise and acknowledge cross departmental support for the services offered by our members, there is real concern that the structures proposed for the reforms will mean that women’s needs are not differentiated and are seen as a low priority. We welcome the call for separate commissioning of services for women; and we know that Women’s Community Projects are well placed to provide a focal role in supporting vulnerable women in their communities. It is unfortunate that this report has come too late for one of the ‘impressive women’s community projects’ cited in the report (SWAN, Northumbria), but I hope that the proposals of the Justice Select Committee will inform and influence the transformation agenda that is currently underway in the Criminal Justice System.
Despite continuing support from the Ministry of Justice and the National Offender Management Service, many of our member organisations have faced reductions in their funding this year, and they continue to face an uncertain future as complexity of presenting issues increases and local commissioning arrangements across agendas are rationalised.
We remain concerned that we have seen a shift away from a focus on women with particular vulnerabilities that the Corston Report so clearly identified, and resources are more narrowly targeted toward s women who are already in the Criminal Justice System. This report also quite rightly draws attention back to the need to attend to early intervention and prevention and provides some thoughtful proposals for how that agenda should be best delivered.
Women’s Breakout can evidence that continued investment in Women’s Community Projects reduces harm, protects women, families and communities and provides cost savings across criminal justice, health and social care. We hope that our member organisations will be able to continue to provide these valuable interventions as the transformation agenda continues on its march.
Jackie Russell, Director