Women offenders: follow-up - Justice Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Governance arrangements and the Advisory Board on Female Offenders

1.  We welcome the cross-Government focus on reducing women's offending which has been achieved in the form of the Advisory Board, but we note with concern that the high turnover of Ministers and, therefore, Advisory Board Chairs, during the Board's short existence appears to have impeded progress against the priorities set out in March 2013. There is a clearer direction of policy on women offenders, but we consider it too early to assess whether the Advisory Board constitutes the most effective mechanism to steer high-level cross-Government strategy. We welcome the Minister's determination to reduce the women's prison population, because strong direction from the centre is needed to achieve this. We hope to see a fall by the time of the Ministry's next annual review of its strategic objectives. However we note that any such fall would be against the apparent tide of a rising general prison population. (Paragraph 12)

Gaps in provision for women offenders

2.  In our Report Crime reduction policies: a co-ordinated approach?, we concluded that slow progress was being made in developing liaison and diversion schemes and that much more could be done. We argued that the Government had tended to focus on crisis management, where there might be more immediate financial gains to be had, and, as a result, only a small proportion of funding was being assigned to early intervention programmes which have could potentially lead to longer term benefits. We believe the wider availability of these schemes will be crucial for strengthening community-based provision for women in order to reduce the female prison population. (Paragraph 15)

Funding for women's community services and commissioning arrangements

3.  We are concerned that funding appears to be a recurring problem for women's centres and that future funding arrangements have not been put on a sound basis as we recommended. (Paragraph 18)

4.  Women's centres should not be solely for women already in the criminal justice system, but also for those on the periphery of it and at risk of entering it, and we reiterate our recommendation that sustainable funding of specialist women's services should be a priority. (Paragraph 18)

The implications for women offenders of Transforming Rehabilitation

5.  It is still very early to assess whether the requirement to take account of women's needs placed on probation providers by the Transforming Rehabilitation programme is sufficient to safeguard the long term funding of women's centres. (Paragraph 22)

Small custodial units and the female custodial estate

6.  We remain of the view that an estate consisting principally of small custodial units is best suited to women in custody. This should be the long term aim of the Government, when it has been successful in reducing the size of the women's prison population. (Paragraph 23)

Release on Temporary Licence

7.  We welcome the Government's assurances that the Minister is taking steps to minimise the potential impact on women of recent restrictions on ROTL. We anticipate that our successor Committee will have to monitor this carefully in the future. (Paragraph 31)


8.  Overall, we believe that positive steps are being made in meeting the needs of women offenders, and we welcome the Minister's personal determination to reduce the women's prison population and improve and increase the programmes of support available to female offenders to help them take responsibility and improve their lives. The greater energy with which the Government has begun to address the issue of women offenders needs to be sustained and continued by the next Government: this applies to matters such as reliable funding of women's centres, the effectiveness of rehabilitative provision for women by Community Rehabilitation Companies, and the potential of smaller custodial units. We want to see more effective provision for women offenders, making it possible for there to be a substantial fall in the women's prison population in the coming months and years. We recommend that our successor Committee in the next Parliament continue to monitor this subject closely. (Paragraph 32)

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Prepared 24 March 2015