How do Women’s Community Service Providers contribute to reducing offending behaviour of women?
What are Women’s Community Service Providers?
Women’s Community Service Providers are gender specific interventions that are available through community based, third sector organisations.
Guiding principles for developing a gender responsive approach to criminal justice policy:
- Gender: Acknowledge that gender makes a difference.
- Environment: Create an environment based on safety, respect, and dignity.
- Relationships: Develop policies, practices and programs that are relational and promote healthy connections to children, family, significant others, and the community.
- Services and Supervision: Address the issues of substance abuse, trauma, and mental health through comprehensive, integrated, culturally relevant services and appropriate supervision.
- Economic and Social Status: Improve women’s economic/social conditions by developing their capacity to be self-sufficient.
- Community: Establish a system of community supervision and re-entry with comprehensive, collaborative services.
According to ‘Women’s Mental Health Into the Mainstream’, a strategic document addressing how women’s inequalities, disadvantage and discrimination impact on their mental health, the key requirements for effective services for women are that they:
- Promote empowerment, choice and self-determination;
- Place importance on the underlying causes of their distress in addition to their symptoms;
- Address important issues relating to them as mothers, the need for safe accommodation and access to education, training and work opportunities;
- Value their strengths, abilities and potential for recovery.
Characteristics of Women’s Community Service Providers
Although Women’s Community Service Providers will vary in their design and delivery as they are adapted to their local context, they share some core characteristics:
- A women only environment to ensure that women feel safe and secure.
- Individually tailored support that addresses each woman’s unique needs.
- A holistic approach which addresses every aspect of a woman’s life, to ensure that underlying causes of offending are addressed.
- A multi-agency partnership approach, working with many statutory and voluntary organisations to provide a broad range of services to women to help them address all of their needs.
- A ‘one stop shop’ model whereby women can access a range of services in one place or from one key worker having specialist knowledge and expertise in working with women.
A woman’s journey
When a woman attends a centre that has made a commitment to offer gender-specific community based solutions, she will be assigned a key worker who will support her to make changes to her life. They will do an assessment together, looking at the areas in her life which she might like to change, and they will then develop a support plan which will work around nine pathways to reducing re-offending. These are:
- Skills and employment
- Drugs and Alcohol
- Finance, Benefit and Debt
- Children, families and relationships
- Attitudes, thinking and behaviour
- Supporting women who have been abused, raped or experienced domestic violence
- Supporting women who are or have been involved in prostitution
As Women’s Community Service Providers are committed to multi-agency working women can come to them through a variety of different roots. A woman might already be involved with the Community Rehabilitation service because for example she is serving a community sentence and they might refer her to the Women’s Community Service Provider for support. A woman might receive a court order to attend a service for a period of time or she might feel that the service can offer her support and just drop in.
Women Centred Working
Women Centred Working is an initiative to inspire better services for vulnerable women and girls – by sharing ways of working that have proved successful at community level and has been set up to help improve services for women experiencing a combination of inter-related problems, including domestic violence, homelessness, substance misuse, poor mental and physical health and offending behaviour. There is a further publication, Showcasing Women Centred Solutions, which shows how the approach works in practice and benefits it can bring, including saving millions of pounds of public money.
The initiative has been developed by WomenCentre Calderdale and Kirklees.