New approach to supporting women offenders in Sussex


Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne has successfully secured government funding to help develop a new approach to addressing the complex needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged women encountering the Criminal Justice System.

The 'Whole Systems Approach' (WSA) model to supporting women offenders is based on assessing their needs at the very first point they enter the criminal justice system (on arrest) then referring women to local support services that can deal with their often complex vulnerabilities, such as domestic abuse, drug and alcohol misuse, mental health issues, and other barriers to education, training and employment.

The WSA project will deliver a women's triage and diversion service, operating out of six police custody suites. It will build on an existing 12-month project coordinated by Sussex Police and Brighton Women’s Centre, working with women offenders as they reach custody. The enhanced approach will also incorporate Out of Court Disposals and access to the Voluntary Attendance Suites, which allows the individual to attend a police interview, or help progress a case, in their own time, which has shown to improve their engagement in the process.

Commenting on the new approach Sussex PCC Katy Bourne said: "Working with vulnerable women offenders at the earliest stage has been shown to reduce reoffending rates, reduce drug and alcohol use, and improve emotional and mental health. By identifying their needs and involving multiple agencies at the very start we can help women to access support services to enable them to turn their lives around. This ground breaking project follows national recommendations (the Bradley Report, 2009 and the Corston Report, 2007), which called for a gender-specific, trauma-informed approach to supporting women affected by the Criminal Justice System."

Emerging Futures Community Interest Company have been successful in the tender process and will provide the service out of custody, ensuring all referrals are assessed within 48 hours and that the triage and engagement of women into appropriate local support services is facilitated effectively.

Ray Jenkins Chief Executive said: "We are delighted to have been appointed to deliver this innovative new service in Sussex and we are looking forward to working closely with all our local partners to ensure the right support is in place for these women at the earliest point.

"Our professional service manager, along with a team of trained, accredited coaches, will work alongside custody staff and a range of public and voluntary agencies to assess individuals' specific needs and match them to appropriate health and social care. Staff will also engage with families and friends affected by the offender's behaviour and vulnerabilities with a view to not only supporting the woman but to consider training as a family coach to help others in a similar predicament."

“The project will roll out in March 2018 and will be evaluated closely with Emerging Futures to ensure we have an operating model that keeps each woman at the heart of the process,” said Sam Sanderson, Project Manager, Sussex Police.

“This new approach focuses on preventing further offending and promoting a safer community by offering appropriate support at an early stage to ensure each individual has the opportunity to make amends and turn their lives around. In the longer term we also hope the project will work with vulnerable low risk male offenders so that we can build on the equality of service provision,” she added.


Notes for editors

The six police custody suites are located in Brighton, Chichester, Crawley, Eastbourne, Hastings and Worthing.

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