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Women Leaving Prison

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons on 17th October 2019.

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Photo of Emma Hardy Emma Hardy Labour, Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle

What steps the Government are taking to support women leaving prison.

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

We remain committed to delivering on the commitments laid out in the female offender strategy, which sets out our vision to see fewer women coming into the criminal justice system, a greater proportion being managed successfully in the community and better conditions for those in custody. Currently, women leaving prison are supported under the enhanced Through the Gate service specification implemented in April 2019. This new specification includes defined minimum support requirements such as accommodation, employment, training and education, finance, benefits and debt, and health and social care.

Photo of Emma Hardy Emma Hardy Labour, Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle

I thank the Minister for her answer, but we are seeing an increased number of people affected by homelessness and addiction problems across the streets of my city of Hull, many of whom have left prison. In addition to the things that she has already mentioned, what more can be done to support women leaving prison to prevent them from ending up homeless, and what more can be done while they are in prison to deal with their addiction problems?

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

I know that the hon. Lady takes an interest in this topic and has a prison in her constituency. Alongside the enhanced Through the Gate service specification, resettlement planning is led by the probation officer in the community where the offender is to be released, making it easier to connect into local services such as women’s centres. We also want greater involvement from voluntary organisations with the expertise to support offenders leaving prison.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

Ministers will be aware of the campaigning work done by Bishop Rachel Treweek of Gloucester and others to encourage non-custodial sentences for women, and the Minister for Women, my hon. Friend Victoria Atkins, visited the Nelson Trust in my constituency, which does so much to help ex-prisoners. However, the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend Wendy Morton, will know that many women who leave prison do not have a suitable home to go. What more can we do to provide suitable accommodation for such women?

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

As I have set out, we have the enhanced Through the Gate service specification, but I am more than happy to discuss the matter further with my hon. Friend. I would be interested to know a little bit more about the particular project to which he referred.

Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities)

Today, Mr Speaker, with my voice, I am going to be Bonnie Tyler. [Laughter.]

One in six women leave prison with no home to go to. A combination of homelessness, a lack of job opportunities, and the stigma of being an ex-offender is setting up these women to fail and is undoubtedly responsible for the disproportionate number of recalls. The Government have to do more to help these women, who have to be able to escape the vicious circle. What are the Government going to do for these women?

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

In addition to the Through the Gate service, I am sure that the hon. Lady is aware of the social impact bond. In June of last year, we published our strategy for female offenders, setting out our vision and a plan to improve outcomes for women in custody and in the community. Like her, I am keen to do all that we can to help women who are leaving custody.