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7th March 2016

Women offenders

Amy Hall, CGM CRC's equality and diversity officer.

Amy Hall, CGM CRC’s equality and diversity officer.

by Amy Hall, CGM CRC’s Interchange Manager with responsibility for equality and diversity

WOMEN service users make up a tenth of the service user population in the community nationally, and 12.5 per cent in Greater Manchester. A woman’s needs and experiences may be significantly different to those of the majority of male service users. In addition, the impact of a sentence may be very different to the impact on a man.

CGM CRC is committed to ensuring women service users are given the option of having a female case manager and of being interviewed in a female only environment.

For many years, Greater Manchester probation has spearheaded the changes in provision for women service users.

A women’s centre was established in every district in Greater Manchester which ensures women service users are seen in a safe women-only space. This is especially important as so many are victims or survivors of domestic or sexual abuse.

The service should be what we call ‘wrap-around’, involving multiple agencies that work together to provide support on a number of levels. It could involve health, accommodation, employment, training and educational support and guidance about domestic abuse or alcohol and drug cessation.

The number and percentage of successful completions in the last quarter of 2015 illustrates the success of this service with 100 per cent of women service users successfully completing their programme, 98.7 percent completing their Unpaid Work Order and 80.4 percent completing their Community Order.

CGM CRC is dedicated to developing services with the same ethos across the Cheshire area, but more on that later.

What I am most excited about is that a Purple Futures pan-CRC policy for women service users is currently being ratified and then will be available to ensure all services over the Purple Futures CRC’s reach the same high standards as Greater Manchester.

It’s a really big deal – Purple Futures is the owner of five CRC’s, including CGM CRC, and represents 25 per cent of the CRCs. So this women’s policy will effect a quarter of all women service users in CRC’s nationally.

Purple Futures recognised that there needs to be a consistent approach to women service users pan CRC, with flexible core services, which is what the policy is all about.

If we get women’s supervision right for this volume of female service users nationwide it will be a massive achievement.

It will be the first guidance of its kind. We are taking best practice from across the CRCs and incorporating that into a core standards model.

Since the publication of the Baroness Corston report, there’s been a significant wealth of approaches and resources committed to working with women and there is now a substantial evidence base that we can draw upon to develop best practice.

For me this work represents the most momentous development to working with women that I have ever seen during my probation career, and that stretches back over a decade. I feel privileged to be involved with it.

I mentioned services for women service users in Cheshire earlier. We currently have a partnership with Cheshire Without Abuse, and we deliver one of our programmes, WiSER, from their office.

We are developing services through holding a stakeholder event to raise awareness, There is some excellent practice with women service users in Cheshire, however there is currently no consistent, joined up approach and we want to change that.

Developing services for women service users in Cheshire will be so exciting and for me it will be a personal challenge and commitment which I am looking forward to.