Commenting on the publication of the Female Offenders Strategy, Commonweal Housing’s Chief Executive, Ashley Horsey said:
“Commonweal welcomes the publication of the new Female Offenders strategy. In particular, we welcome the announcement that five new residential women’s centres across England and Wales will be trialled and that the Government will not pursue plans to build community prisons for women.
Commonweal’s work on the Re-Unite project demonstrates that Community based sentencing options provide a far more positive outcome for vulnerable women and reduce reoffending, improving the social, psychological and financial outcomes for the women who use them. Importantly they also ensure children are able to stay with their mothers, helping to keep families together and reduce the intergenerational cycle of crime.
The success of community based sentencing options does, however, rest of the availability of sufficient funding. With re-unite services and women’s centres across the UK struggling under the pressure of funding cuts, we remain concerned about the lack of funding announced today and call on the government to reassess this figure. Additionally, the lack of detail around timings must be addressed if the strategy is to achieve its ambition.
The onus now sits with the government to ensure that the plans outlined in the strategy are turned into action soon, delivering lasting change.”
Commonweal housing were actively involved in establishing and supporting the Re-Unite project for ten years. Re-Unite tackled a catch 22 situation; if a mother leaving prison does not have custody of her children when she applies to her local authority as homeless or when seeking rent support through the local housing allowance system she is eligible for nothing larger than a room in a shared house or at best a one-bedroom property. However, when she has only a one-bedroom property, she is denied custody of her children. Our interest in the Female Offenders Strategy stems from our work around this project and the recommendations outlined in the Re-Unite: Ten Year Review