Mayor’s £500,000 boost to services tackling female reoffending

25 January 2017

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today put tackling female offending at the heart of his policing strategy, investing £500,000 in improved services to support women at risk of reoffending.

Around 30,000 women are arrested each year in London, making up a third of all offenders sentenced at court. Of these, over a fifth go on to reoffend*. Support for female offenders in the capital has been historically underfunded and the need for more services has become increasingly acute as a result of the closure of HMP Holloway last summer.

The new Female Offender Service, funded by the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) and the London Community Rehabilitation Company (London CRC), will expand and improve current services and bring different agencies together to tackle women’s reoffending across the capital.  Tackling female offenders is a key strand of the Mayor’s draft Police and Crime Plan, currently out for consultation, and MOPAC is in ongoing discussions with central government on how to improve services. The Plan, which aims to protect the capital’s most vulnerable, also focuses on developing support for victims, tackling violence against women and girls and improving standards across the criminal justice system. 

The programme builds on the work of the Minerva project, part of women’s charity Advance, which works with women who are either leaving custody or serving their sentence in the community. The new service will reach 950 female offenders across London. MOPAC’s funding will enhance support services in 10 London boroughs, including specialist care in the areas of domestic and sexual abuse, trauma counselling, employment support, parenting and housing. 

Today Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor for Policing And Crime, and Dr Philip Lee, Justice Minister, visited the Minerva project, meeting keyworkers and service users.

Sophie Linden said: “We know that most women serving prison sentences have committed a non-violent offence, and by providing support across a range of areas, we can help them deal with the root causes of their problems, drive down reoffending, cut crime and make our communities safer. The Minerva project supports women as they navigate the criminal justice system and when they leave it, and by expanding this service we are one step closer to the pan-London approach to female offending that our capital needs.”

Justice Minister Dr Phillip Lee said: “I welcome this investment in support for female offenders in London and look forward to working with the Mayor’s Office to help women turn away from crime.

“Many women who are at risk of offending or reoffending have a range of complex circumstances - whether that’s turning to drugs or alcohol as a crutch, facing serious mental or physical health problems, or struggling to find a home or a job. Projects such as this play an important role in giving female offenders the help and support they need to reform and live law-abiding lives.

“We are developing a strategy for the way we manage female offenders and are providing £1m seed funding over the course of this Parliament to assist local areas to develop multi-agency, holistic approaches to those at risk of offending.”

Helga Swindenbank, Director of Probation at the London Community Rehabilitation Company said: "We are delighted to be working with Advance Minerva to help our women service users deal with some of the complex issues that can lead them to re-offend.  Advance Minerva will complement the work we do with women to prepare for their release from custody, meeting them in prison and working with them once back in their communities. This will give us more of an opportunity to provide tailored support to address women offenders' individual needs and will enable us to deliver a more seamless service to help a woman's transition from custody to the community.

“I hope that, by working with women offenders in this way, we will help equalise the life chances of vulnerable women in London and reduce the cycle of reoffending."

Anna Smith, Chief Executive of Advance, said: “We are committed to the rehabilitation of female offenders, and are pleased and proud to retain the expertise and ‘gold standard’ service we have developed through our Minerva pilot over the last five years to roll out a service to 950 women across London with their needs at its heart. We are confident our approach will both reduce and end offending and support women to make choices which change their lives.”

Ramya, a service user from Brent, said: “I wouldn't know where I would be if I had not come to Minerva for support. I really found the service helpful, and it showed me what I needed to move on. I feel much more able to cope with things now."

ENDS

Notes to editors

*The reoffending rate for female offenders in London between October 2013 and September 2014 was 20.6 per cent. 46 per cent of women in prison report having suffered a history of domestic abuse

  •        The new Female Offender Service was commissioned in July 2016 following a decision in 2015, with an £500,000 investment from the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, and £700,000 from the London Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC).
  •          The MOPAC funded enhanced service offer will reach around 400 women referred from the following 10 boroughs:
  • Croydon
  • Southwark
  • Lewisham
  • Lambeth
  • Hounslow
  • Brent
  • Ealing
  • Hammersmith & Fulham
  • Kensington & Chelsea
  • Westminster

·       To participate in the public consultation on the Mayor’s Police and Crime Plan, please visit: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/mayors-office-policing-and-crime-mopac/mopac-consultations/your-views-policing-and-crime 

·       Advance is a feminist organisation, a charity working to offer services to women.  Advance’s vision is a world in which women and children lead safe, equal, violence-free lives so that they can flourish and actively contribute to society; we began our work in 1998 as one of four organisations in the UK piloting a new approach to working with women experiencing domestic abuse, and in 2010 we established a second project, Minerva -  a women only centre offering holistic, practical and emotional support to divert women from offending.  Advance’s values are founded on gender equality, human rights and non-discrimination - we believe that women need support to identify they are experiencing domestic abuse and to get safe, and that women need a specialist service to reduce and end their offending which takes into account the caring role they often have for their children, and helps them understand the reasons behind for their offending, supporting them with underlying issues such as domestic abuse, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse and poor mental health issues.

·             The Female Offender Service consists of 16 keyworkers, three managerial posts, an administrator and a director, with 10 keyworkers dedicated to the enhanced service.