Women’s services praised by Government Minister

24 June 2016

A WOMEN’S symposium hosted by one of our Community Rehabilitation Companies has highlighted the role that tailored services can provide for female offenders.

Minister for Women, Equalities and Family Justice, Caroline Dinenage, gave a key note speech at a Women’s Symposium hosted by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) this week to explore the local – and much broader – issues which affect women in the criminal justice system across Hampshire.

The focus of the event, held at the Mercure Hotel in Winchester on Thursday 16th June, was on bringing together a wide range of providers, service users and policy makers to forge new thinking and partnerships in the county.

Caroline said: “As the Prime Minister has made clear, this government is committed to improving the treatment of female offenders. I am determined to see fewer women falling into crime and custody. Poor mental health, domestic violence, drink and drugs are key elements that can lead to a woman breaking the law but by supporting these women we can rehabilitate, reform and keep our streets safer.

“We have recently given funding to four local areas pioneering the Whole System Approach, so they can respond innovatively to those needs. I’m delighted to see that Hampshire is now looking at using this model to help turn even more women away from crime. In addition, we are looking into options including tagging, problem solving courts and alternative resettlement units to improve our care for female offenders.”

Hampshire & Isle of Wight CRC Chief Executive, Mary D’Arcy, said: “Women make up around 15% of those who come into the criminal justice system. Research and evidence tells us that working differently with female offenders is better for their rehabilitation. Our community based ‘pop-up’ women’s centres help women to address their offending behaviour, as well as a myriad of other issues, such as low self-esteem, mental wellbeing and experience of physical, sexual or coercive abuse. The centres also offer valuable support with practical issues like childcare, health and employment.

“However there is more that can be done for women who have complex needs and for whom the criminal justice system must be seen as a last resort. Today’s Women’s Symposium has given women a voice to ask for the support and services they need and to share with service providers ideas to prevent more women from entering into this system and the consequent labeling and challenges this brings.”

Other speakers at the event included Brighton Women’s Centre Director, Lisa Dando and Trinity Centre Winchester Manager, Sue McKenna.