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29 Sep 2016

Transforming Rehabilitation programme puts women’s services under threat

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation’s thematic inspection report on women’s services, published today (Thursday 29 September).

The report makes clear that women’s services have deteriorated and are “under threat” following the implementation of the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) programme, which saw the part-privatisation of probation.

Inspectors found that dedicated funding for women’s services had virtually disappeared under TR. As funding is no longer ring-fenced, provision is now discretionary and dependent upon local commissioning arrangements by privately-run Community Rehabilitation Companies.

The report states that women’s centres are particularly vulnerable under the new arrangements and some have already lost funding. This is in spite of the important role they play in turning women away from crime and helping them to rebuild their lives. Inspectors were concerned that these funding difficulties could lead to services being reduced or lost altogether.

Inspectors found that, in one in three women’s cases, the quality of probation work was not good enough. Particularly weak was work to address domestic abuse, sexual exploitation, and other forms of exploitation of women, such as obtaining drugs or alcohol for others.

The report adds that the efforts of probation staff have been hampered by a lack of suitable accommodation for women.

Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The break-up of the public probation service, with a large part of it handed to 21 private companies, was supposed to turn lives around, reduce reoffending and make us all safer. Today’s report provides yet more evidence that this is not happening.

“The overhaul of probation was done with men in mind, and now we are seeing the results for a significant minority in the system: women. Women’s centres in the community, which have proved for many years to be successful in guiding women away from crime, are threatened with extinction. Other services are at risk. This is letting down the public and letting down women who are trying to change their lives.

“The Howard League warned that ministers were taking a huge risk by dismantling a service that was performing well. We remain of that view, and our own research on the impact of these reforms on women will be published in due course.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  1. The report is available on the HM Inspectorate of Probation website from Thursday 29 September.
  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform provides administrative support to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Women in the Justice System (APPG), chaired by Baroness Corston and Fiona Mactaggart MP. More details about the APPG’s work can be found on the Howard League website.


Rob Preece
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