WomenMATTA, which is my local women’s centre, has also spoken of the inadequacy of funding, which I will come on to, and of the complexity of the application procedures. As my hon. Friend rightly suggests, spending time on preparing the applications detracts from the good work that the centres could be doing in working directly with women offenders.
I was very pleased to hear Mr Gauke, the last Lord Chancellor—and, if I may say so, a much-missed Lord Chancellor—speaking positively about his intention or wish to see a presumption against the imposition of short custodial sentences, as already applies in Scotland. However, as my hon. Friend Lilian Greenwood says, women’s centres still lack sustainable funding. Will the Minister say what has happened to the proceeds from the sale of Holloway Prison? That delivered some £80 million into the Treasury’s coffers, but only £5 million appears to have been released to go towards services for women.
It is welcome that the Government, in their strategy, called a halt to the building of new women’s prisons. Many of us had spent much time urging them to take exactly that step. But what evidence can the Minister show for the efficacy of residential women’s centres? Surely priority should be given to funding core women’s centre provision in the community. No prison has to wonder whether it will have the funding to exist after 2021, but that is the case for most women’s centres, with Lord Farmer himself describing their funding as “desperately precarious”.