Ministry of Justice has made £2.5m available and announced a new residential centre

The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales Dame Vera Baird QC has reacted to the announcement of new funding aimed at preventing women being drawn into crime.

Today (5 April) Justice Minister Lucy Frazer announced that £2.5m is being made available to support community services across England and Wales.

Ms Frazer also announced the Government’s first Residential Women’s Centre – an alternative to custody which will be focused on rehabilitation for women convicted of low-level crime will be built in Wales.

Reacting to the announcements Dame Vera said: “I congratulate the minister for securing this funding – anything that helps divert women from prison is to be welcomed as we know that often, women who are imprisoned are themselves victims of other crimes.

“However, I have to agree with concerns which have been raised by people working in this sector regarding how far £2.5m will go, considering it has to be spread across the whole of England and Wales.

“There is a real need for a strategic policy for dealing with female offenders which has to be supported by sustained funding to ensure that these schemes are able to continue to work with women who want to turn their lives around,” said Dame Vera.

The Ministry of Justice said the Residential Women’s Centre in Wales will provide accommodation for women with complex needs who would otherwise be sentenced to custody. And will offer services which tackle the underlying causes of offending, such as substance misuse and mental health problems.

It should also enable Welsh women to stay closer to home, benefitting their children and wider family ties – which are known to be key to reducing reoffending.

In response to the plans Dame Vera said: “I hope that this centre is able to deliver all it is intended to and that it provides an opportunity for women to get their lives back on track.

“It is important that it is a real alternative to custody and does not become a prison in everything but name. I will watch its development with interest,” she said.