The Female Offender Strategy (2018) set out our vision to see fewer women entering the justice system and reoffending; fewer women in custody, particularly on short custodial sentences, with more managed successfully in the community; and a custodial environment that enables rehabilitation. The strategy launched an ambitious programme of work to improve outcomes for female offenders and make society safer by tackling the underlying causes of offending and reoffending. This will take several years to deliver, with our planned pilot of a residential women’s centre in at least five sites in England and Wales likely to last until the latter part of this decade.
Some two years on from publication of the Strategy we are making good progress. We have already invested £5.1 million Strategy funding in 30 different women’s services across England and Wales, helping to sustain and enhance existing services, fill gaps in provision, and provide properties for new women’s centres. Other achievements include publication of a new Women’s Policy Framework; roll-out of new training for staff working with women in custody and the community; improvements to the preparation of pre-sentence reports; publication and ongoing implementation of the recommendations in Lord Farmer’s review into family ties for female offenders; undertaken a review of police forces’ responses to our guidance on working with vulnerable women; piloting a new offender management model for women under supervision in the community; commissioning research to inform our policy on BAME female offenders; and publication of our review of the operational policy on Pregnancy, Mother and Baby Units, and Mothers separated from children under the age of 2 in prison.
On 5 May 2020, we announced the investment of a further £2.5m in women’s community services in England and Wales in 2020/21, supporting them to tackle the root causes of offending and help women to turn their lives around. We also announced that the first site of our residential women’s centre pilot will be located in Wales. This will provide accommodation for vulnerable women with complex needs who would otherwise be sentenced to custody, enabling them to stay closer to home and maintain important family ties, and will directly tackle the issues which often underlie offending, like substance misuse and mental health. We will now work with Welsh Government and partners in Wales to identify a provider and site.