New Scheme to Reduce Female Offending

9th March 2015

This Wales-wide initiative aims to reduce offending and reoffending by women in Wales by providing a whole system, integrated approach which focuses on the specific needs of women. One key part of this work is the Diversion Scheme which aims to divert low risk women away from the criminal justice system and into comprehensive packages of intervention and support at the earliest opportunity.

The IOM Cymru Women's Pathfinder will be officially launched throughout Wales today during an event held at Cardiff's City Hall (Monday March 9th). Senior leaders from a wide range of criminal and social justice partners across Wales who are working in collaboration across the Criminal Justice System (CJS), will join the Public Services Minister for the launch.

The Women's Pathfinder is an Integrated Offender Management (IOM) Cymru initiative led by The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) in Wales and the four Welsh Police Forces with support from Welsh Government. The Pathfinder is aimed at developing a women-specific, integrated, whole system approach to work with women who come into contact with the Criminal Justice System (CJS) in Wales in order to improve outcomes in relation to women, families, victims and communities.

The launch event will highlight the innovative approaches being developed by the Women's Pathfinder, including 'The Diversion Scheme' which seeks to divert lower risk women away from the CJS and into voluntary community interventions and support at the earliest opportunity. The Diversion Scheme has been piloted in Cardiff since July 2014 and since this time has diverted 100 women away from the CJS into a range of services including housing support, debt advice, mental health services, domestic abuse support and substance misuse interventions.

Following this success the Pathfinder Team in collaboration with the four Police and Crime Commissioners in Wales secured nearly å£500,000 from the Home Office's Police Innovation Fund to develop four additional pilot sites across Wales; in Newport (Gwent), Merthyr Tydfil (South Wales), St Asaph (North Wales) and Haverfordwest (Dyfed-Powys). This funding will also enable the Scheme to undergo a robust evaluation to support further roll out across Wales in the future. The Police Innovation Fund is a å£50 million fund that enables Police and Crime Commissioners to invest in a range of other innovative delivery approaches that have the potential to improve policing and deliver further efficiency.

Highlighting the importance of the Diversion Scheme, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Ian Johnston, said: "We were delighted to secure funding from the Home Office for this exciting Wales-wide scheme which will divert women who have been arrested away from criminality and provide them with a new and 'restorative' approach to their rehabilitation. Female offenders often have multiple problems which contribute to their offending which cannot be addressed by a single agency. This new scheme will ensure that women who come into contact with the criminal justice system will have the co-ordinated support they need to help them stay on the straight and narrow. This project also has the potential to deliver further efficiencies for all the Welsh Forces involved by reducing repeat offending amongst women."

One of the women currently engaging with the Diversion Scheme, said: "Unfortunately people find them self in a bad situation sometimes. Without the help of the diversion scheme my situation would have been a lot worse. It's a good idea to give people a second chance because sometimes a mistake can change your life."

Other projects being delivered by the Women's Pathfinder include the End-To-End Model pilots that provide a coordinated, integrated pathway for all female offenders in the community and the Accommodation Pathway project which is looking to improve access to suitable accommodation for women leaving custody.

Welcoming the project, Welsh Government Minister for Public Services, Leighton Andrews, said: "This pilot has proven that a costly custodial sentence is not always the correct option for some who come into contact with the criminal justice system. Many women who offend are victims themselves and need help and support. By providing positive alternatives we can help people to move away from a pattern of repeat offending, and become empowered to improve their own life situations."