New Horizons For Women Offenders

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Greater Manchester’s groundbreaking approach to working with women offenders, which has drastically reduced re-offending, has been given a major cash boost. . . . reports Asian Lite News

Together Women Project
Together Women Project

The region’s network of women’s centres, supported by The Police and Crime Commissioner, Mr.Tony Lloyd and probation criminal justice partners, has been awarded £1,125,000 over the next three years from the Big Lottery Fund and the government’s Tampon Tax.

The funding will strengthen the services offered to hundreds of women across Greater Manchester.  It would re-frame the existing services to help prevent reoffending. This boost would also aim in reaching out to more women in the community and on release from prison.

Greater Manchester’s Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd said: “This is another positive boost to the trailblazing work we’re doing in Greater Manchester to transform our approach to tackling reoffending. Many women offenders are victims themselves, with complex home lives and often children to care for. Doing all we can to divert these women from jail and prevent reoffending is beneficial not only to the women themselves, but to society as a whole.”

Greater Manchester has been held up nationally for its innovative approach to women offenders, which brings together police, probation, health, and other agencies – including those from the voluntary sector – to tackle the underlying issues of reoffending, such as mental health, drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence.

Kate Fraser, Chair of the Greater Manchester Women Offenders Alliance – a network of charities that support women offenders – said: “Our vision is that every woman who offends or is at risk of offending will be able to access tailored, specialist support from their local women’s centre, giving them and their families hope for a future free of crime where they can make a positive contribution to society.”

Community-based punishments and tackling the reasons for women’s offending, has wide-reaching social and economic benefits, including reduced costs for the criminal justice system, fewer victims of crime, reduced truancy of dependents, fewer victims of domestic violence, and less demand on health and local authority services.

Amy Hall, Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company’s (CGM CRC) equality and diversity officer, said: “I have had the privilege of working with women service users for more than a decade and it is an area of practice that I am extremely passionate about, so I am delighted that more funding has been secured in order to further improve the service that we and our partners deliver.

Nearly half of the women receiving support from the centres are domestic abuse victims. Laura had been convicted of a number of offences before receiving support from the Together Women Project in Salford. She said: “They have helped me to identify abusive men, to prevent me getting into other bad relationships. Going there has really given me my confidence back.” Zoe has also been a victim of domestic abuse. She said: “Together Women Project helped to rediscover myself and move forward with my life. If you want help, the help’s there. Because of help I received I’ve gone on to help others using the skills I have discovered.” Service user “Jo” said: “I was begging for this support. I wouldn’t have offended if I’d come here first. I don’t feel like I’m treated like a criminal, like people are looking down their noses at me. I feel like I’m understood here. They understand why I behaved the way I did. They’re not judgemental at all. Without these I think I’d be dead or locked up.”

Between January 2015 and March 2016, more than 1,900 women were referred to one of Greater Manchester’s ten women’s centres, with 88% of those making positive progress in their lives and only 4% re-offending. Women get help with practical issues such as accommodation and debt problems, training and employment, along with support to improve their mental health, wellbeing and confidence.

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