Changing Lives,’ work with women to reduce reoffending across Northumbria has been shortlisted in the ‘women’s’ category for the Howard League for Penal Reform Community Awards 2020.

The charity provides services for Women who have been made subject to a Conditional Caution across Northumbria, to try and move them away from the criminal justice system. This diversion scheme provides early intervention and addresses individual needs and work towards a brighter future away from offending. The service provides a women’s only pathway that addresses the unique needs and challenges that women with experience of the Criminal Justice System face.

The project which is commissioned by the Police Crime Commissioners Office and ran in partnership with Northumbria Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) supports women in eight Northumbria CRC Women’s hubs across six local authority areas in Northumbria.

The project works with women who have low level offending and it aims to provide intervention to prevent their unnecessary criminalisation. Changing Lives works with these women to create change and impact on not only their lives but also those of their children and families.

Issues that lead to female offending are often complex. Many women have themselves been victims of crime, domestic abuse and often have interconnected problems such as poor mental health, unstable relationships and substance misuse. The project takes a trauma-informed approach, understanding their individual experiences and the issues, which have led to their offending.

The hubs are a ‘one-stop shops’ for women’s services, they work with women to help them to address emotional needs while finding connection and meaning in their lives to move forward.  Changing Lives staff understand the feelings of anxiety, fear, shame and feelings of desperation many women who have been involved with the criminal justice system feel. Support includes safety planning, victim awareness, activities to support wellbeing such arts and crafts, access to counselling and signposting to other support services.

The project is an example of excellent trauma-informed work, that is tailored around women’s needs and experiences, and helps prevent future involvement in the criminal justice system. It has demonstrated that by understanding, supporting, empowering and motivating women real change and diversion can be created.

The project’s high levels of engagement demonstrate its success in supporting women. Despite many of the women that are referred to the service are described as hard to reach, the 83 per cent of all women referred to the pathway attend for an initial assessment following telephone contact to arrange the appointment.  It can be difficult to engage women who have experience of the Criminal Justice Service in services, but this project has seen, 100per cent of those who attend the initial assessment fully engage with the process and engage with additional support!

The annual Howard League Community Awards celebrate successful projects and pioneers who have made an outstanding contribution to guiding people away from crime and making communities safer.

Laura Mcintyre, Head of Women’s and Children’s services at Changing Lives, said:

“We are honoured to be shortlisted for the 2020 Howard League Awards and have the fantastic work of our x project recognised. Our staff go above and beyond every day supporting women that access the project to help them build a better life and take steps towards a positive future, believing that there is no woman too complex to support.’”

Winners will be announced on the 20 October, due to the Coronavirus restrictions this year a virtual event will be held to celebrate.

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