Service user engagement and deaths in custody

What are our members doing on service user engagement?
We are exploring how Women’s Breakout can add to the work of our member organisations in respect of service user engagement (this will be a key theme for our annual event in June), and we hope to secure some funding to do this. We recently conducted an audit with our members of their engagement with service users and we received responses from 39 of our member organisations which is a fantastic return rate. All the organisations gave us useful feedback in relation to their approach to service user engagement, the impact engaging with service users has had on their organisation, service delivery or wider policy, and what they would like to be done nationally to support their inclusion of service users.

Key messages from the audit were:

  • 13 organisations have a strategy document or statement that refers to their engagement with service users, but 26 organisations do not.
  • 15 organisations have a committee for their service users, but 24 do not.
  • 12 organisations have a service user on their Trustee/Governance Board one on their Board, but almost three quarters (27 organisations) do not.
  • 35 organisations (90%) engage service users in the design and delivery of their services. 22 organisations (just over half) engage service users in the monitoring of their services. And 36 organisations (92%) engage service users in the monitoring of their services.
  • 31 organisations (79%) have paid or voluntary staff that used to be service users at their organisation. Not all of these organisations were able to say how many they have, but we are able to say that there are well over 100 ex-service users working at these 31 organisations.
  • The majority of the organisations (92%) ask for feedback from service users on an exit report.

Thank you to those who responded to this audit, they are:
4Women Resource Centre, Advance, Apex Charitable Trust, Aurora New Dawn, Birth Companions, Brighton Oasis Project, Cambridge Women’s Resources Centre, Changing Lives, Clean Break, Cohort 4, Eden House, Gibran (UK), Housing for Women, KeyChanges, Lancashire Women’s Centres, My Sisters House, Nelson Trust, New Dawn New Day, North Wales Women’s Centre, Nottingham Women’s Centre, Open Gate, PACT (Alana House), Prison Advice Care Trust (Pact), PSS, Safer Wales, Salford Foundation, Sandwell Women’s Aid, St Giles Trust, Start Up, Stepping Stones, Together (UK), Together Women Project, Tomorrow’s Women Wirral, Urban Outreach, WomenCentre, WomenMATTA (WiP), Women’s Community Matters, Women in Prison, Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, Women’s Work Derby

We look forward to working with you on this over the coming months. Please do get in touch if you are interested.

Deaths in Custody
Since January 2015 to the end of November 2016, 29 women have died in prisons in England – of these, over half were self-inflicted deaths. The ten self-inflicted deaths so far in 2016 is the highest in a year since 2004. The Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody conducted a rapid information gathering exercise in order to produce advice for Ministers and operational leads on how best to prevent and reduce such deaths. Women’s Breakout submitted a response to this which included thoughts from four of our members – Loraine Gelsthorpe, Joanna Smith, Helen Hird and Beverley Gilbert. Our response can be viewed here.

Jackie Russell, Director of Women’s Breakout

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