Pact and voluntary sector partners pave the way for supporting women prison leavers

Pact, together with voluntary sector partners and the Ministry of Justice’s Local Leadership and Integration Fund (LLIF), is launching a new project supporting women leaving HMP Eastwood Park in Gloucestershire.

Led by Gloucestershire-based charity The Nelson Trust, the One Women’s Centre will offer comprehensive support to women in custody and through the gate, encouraging effective rehabilitation and reintegration into the community following release. The centre, which plans to reach at least 400 women during its 12-month pilot, is the first of its kind in England & Wales and will adopt a ‘one team’ approach to supporting female prison leavers, joining up statutory and voluntary sector services.

As acknowledged by Lord Farmer’s 2019 review of the women’s estate, female prisoners face very different challenges to their male counterparts and often become involved with the criminal justice system as a result of poverty, homelessness and substance misuse. The majority of women in prison have histories of trauma, abuse and victimisation, with many serving sentences for crimes less severe than those committed against them. Around half of women prisoners are mothers, which can have a devastating long-term effect on the health and wellbeing of their children, leading to intergenerational cycles of trauma, abuse and offending.

HMP Eastwood Park houses women from the South West of England and Wales (there is currently no women’s prisons in Wales, and so Welsh women are imprisoned in England, more than 100 miles away from their homes and families). The One Women’s Centre will support these women by providing a base for family engagement workers, group work facilitators, and coordinators for Pact’s Visiting Mum project, as well as specific provision for improving gateway communications, encouraging more effective ways of enabling family members to share concerns about their loved one’s health and wellbeing while they are in custody.

The centre will also act as a base for Pact’s Together a Chance initiative for Wales and the Southwest. Funded by the Sylvia Adams Charitable Trust, and in line with Lord Farmer’s recommendations to pilot social workers within the women’s estate, this will support women in being actively involved in decisions relating to the care of their child, provide advocacy with local authority social workers, and promote a better understanding of the criminal justice system within the local authority.

The project will see Pact working with HMPPS and voluntary sector partners including Pobl, Change Grow Live, Safer Wales, The Peninsula Women’s Alliance, and The Wallich to deliver a range of services from housing support and advice to interventions focused on empowering women to lead positive, healthy lives following trauma and addiction.

Pact CEO Andy Keen-Downs said: “We are hugely excited to be working with partners to launch the Pact One Women’s Centre. The initiative is a fantastic opportunity for us to demonstrate the benefits of a collaborative and holistic approach in ensuring the health, safety, and wellbeing of women in custody and on release. We hope that the project will pave the way for further innovation across the women’s estate over the coming months and years.”

Further information on Pact’s initiatives, including Visiting Mum and Together a Chance, is available at www.prisonadvice.org.uk.

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About the Prison Advice & Care Trust (Pact)

Pact is a pioneering national charity that supports prisoners, people with convictions, and their children and families. We provide caring and life changing services at every stage of the criminal justice process: in court, in prison, on release, and in the community.

Pact’s vision is of a society in which justice is understood as a process of restoration and healing, in which prisons are used sparingly and as places of learning and rehabilitation, and in which the innate dignity and worth of every human being is valued.  We work for the common good of Society, taking a public health-based approach. We work at the intersection of criminal justice, child and family welfare, mental health, wellbeing provision and health & social care.

Our volunteers and staff can be found in courts, prisons, probation services, and in communities across England & Wales.  We are a diverse, inclusive, modern, and collaborative charity.  We build effective partnerships and sustainable solutions based on our well-established understanding of the systems in which we work, and on our historic values and ethos developed through our 120+ years of service delivery.

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