The Female Offender Strategy (2018) set out the ambition to see fewer women in custody, especially on short sentences. We know that many women at risk of short custodial sentences have particularly complex needs and prolific offending histories compared to women supervised in the community. Our Strategy therefore committed to developing a residential women’s centre (RWC) pilot in at least five sites across England and Wales, as a robust alternative to custody, providing safe accommodation and intensive rehabilitative support as part of a community sentence.
Learning from existing providers of intensive residential support options, both at the point of sentencing and on release, indicates that this form of provision is effective in reducing reoffending. The RWC pilot will enable us to test models of safe accommodation and holistic support for women to address the underlying causes of their offending, and will enable us to develop an evidence base about what could be effective, sustainable and scalable models.
On 5 May 2020 we announced that the first RWC will be located in Wales. Subsequently we have advised the Welsh Government, local MPs, PCCs and other partners that we have shortlisted sites in South Wales, and we anticipate one of those sites could be a potential location for the first pilot RWC. As yet we have not identified sites for the four RWCs in England.
We anticipate that each RWC will have 12 beds. RWCs will also provide support, very similar to that offered by a women’s centre, with interventions to support women address the underlying causes of their offending behaviour. We anticipate it will offer interventions to meet the needs of residents, ex-residents and women in the local community who have been referred to the RWC by their offender manager.
We expect the RWCs will work with key partners and providers of women-specific services in their local area and draw on the expertise of those who currently work with women with complex needs and women with lived experience. The RWC will be led by the NPS but will employ women with experience of working with complex needs women to lead the interventions hub and to engage with local providers and partners.