Advance was invited to provide evidence at a session, having also heard evidence from those with lived experience of the justice system and the Probation Service. During the session we highlighted the positive impact of the services commissioned and delivered for the last 2 years (since June 2021), including:
- the commissioning of holistic services across all regions in England and Wales,
- the positive role women specialist services working with probation and local services,
- the partnership working between probation practitioners and voluntary sector services.
The Committee is focussing on community orders and is considering practical aspects related to their use and delivery, trends in the use of community sentences, barriers to their use, and best practices in their delivery. It seeks to understand the range of activities available and assess the extent and impact of local disparities.
Advance also highlighted learnings and areas for further development, in order to improve justice outcomes for women and young women. This includes:
1- The key vital role of an independent and voluntary specialist women’s service such as Advance have for women on probation and serving community orders to be:
- able to provide informed consent to the service,
- able to make informed choices and
- supported in a way that empowers them to move forward and break the cycle of re-offending
2- Delivering trauma-informed and woman-centric wraparound support in order to effect sustainable impact and reduce re-offending, requires the service for women to focus on outcomes, including:
- a longer and more flexible engagement period at the start of the journey, recognising that this may take 4-6 weeks, as part of her making an informed choice to engage with the support
- a longer-term and more dynamic support plan, that is led by her and is adapted as she is able to develop a trusted relationship and communication with her community keyworker (and probation practitioner)
- specific support that recognises her experience of gender-based violence and trauma (such as domestic abuse and sexual violence), including specialist mental health support as part of the holistic service
- support for her beyond the community order (as well as at the earliest point such as diversion services), through developing additional services with grants by the Ministry of Justice, as part of its Female Offender Strategy and plan, as well as PCCs and other partners, in a whole system approach. We highlighted the London co-commissioned service as well as others.
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- 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. The charity works with women who experience domestic abuse to be safe and take control of their lives, and women who have committed crime or are at risk of offending to break the cycle.
- As well as providing direct support, Advance works with statutory services, government agencies and other women’s charities to ensure a holistic approach to the issues these women face.
- Women must be referred to Advance, via statutory services or the charity’s self-referral scheme. For more information about who Advance is able to support, please visit Get Help
- For facts and statistics about domestic abuse and women in the criminal justice system, as well as Advance’s work, please visit Our Impact