Female Offender Strategy: One Year On — [Joan Ryan in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:16 pm on 24th July 2019.

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Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Labour, Delyn 3:16 pm, 24th July 2019

It is very important that we try to support women who have committed offences. Sometimes they have committed them because forces have driven them to it. We need to find an appropriate way to remove them from prison because prison has an impact on family life as well as on them. I welcome the efforts of Mr Gauke on short prison sentences, and I hope the policy will continue with any new Member in due course.

If I may focus on my own area of north Wales, there were 37 women on any given day last year in Styal Prison—40 miles from the border, and perhaps 100 miles from the north-west of Wales. I was asked last year by the Welsh Assembly Government to do an inquiry into the treatment of prisoners with regard to education and other services. It is important to note that in the female offender strategy, only four of the 179 paragraphs deal with Wales. It establishes a need for a blueprint. A female offender blueprint is being published by the Welsh Government, and it has very good aspirations. I would welcome an update on progress from the Minister, either in writing or when he responds at the end of the debate.

For example, in the work that I did last year in Wales, I found that there was limited access to Welsh language education for women whose first language was Welsh. There was limited understanding in the Welsh Government of how many female offenders would return to Wales, how many were linked into the labour market of Wales, and how many dependents people had. There was limited understanding of how much would be needed in the way of ongoing support requirements, to reintegrate women back from custody into the community in due course.

My hon. Friends have demanded a women’s centre, and my hon. Friend Carolyn Harris will reiterate that. Wales is one country, but north and south Wales are two regions, where there are different demands on people. We need, as my hon. Friend Chris Ruane said, to look at what provision there is for a women’s centre in Wales. Those 37 women need to return to the community in due course.

I welcome the document overall, but I hope that the Minister can provide some clarity about a one-year update to the female offending blueprint, and a six-month update to the implementation plan being worked on by the Welsh Assembly Government in conjunction with his Department.