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Women’s Centres

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 11:35 am on 25th April 2017.

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Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Labour, Slough 11:35 am, 25th April 2017

What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of women’s centres in reducing reoffending; and if she will make a statement.

Photo of Phillip Lee Phillip Lee The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The data on women’s centres is quite mixed. I am a strong advocate of the benefits of women’s centres in the community. On reoffending rates, the figures are somewhat mixed across the county. We continue to look at the situation closely to find out exactly what works about those women’s centres to reduce reoffending.

Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Labour, Slough

But is it not a fact that most women in prison are extremely vulnerable and have been victims themselves, including of domestic abuse, addiction and mental health problems, and that women’s centres actually deal with the whole problem? I was a Home Office Minister who helped to persuade Baroness Corston to produce her excellent report, and the reason why we did that was the number of women who were killing themselves in jail. The Government are planning new women’s jails, but more women will murder themselves—we are at a record level. How is the Minister going to stop that happening without investing in women’s centres?

Photo of Phillip Lee Phillip Lee The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

I thank the right hon. Lady for her question. I should have wished her the best of luck as she stands down at the election. She represents a town that I know very well, and I also know that she is a particularly popular Member of Parliament.

The building of the prisons should not be interpreted as increasing the number of places to lock women up in—that should be clear. On women’s centres, I agree that women often have very complex problems, and that is a reason why I, for one, am trying to increase the number of women’s centres in the country. As the right hon. Lady has rightly said, bringing everything under the same roof can really help those women to make the right turn in life, away from crime.