This will be the first place in Somerset to offer gender-responsive services

Expert Voice: Rebecca Marshall on diversion for women

Posted on 23 Apr in

Q1. In 2016 you successfully completed a Centre for Justice Innovation StreetCraft Scholarship to develop your idea for a diversion scheme for women across Avon and Somerset. How far has your idea come since then?

I am really pleased to say that my idea has become a reality. In July 2017, SHE – Support Help and Engagement – an out of court disposal and referral scheme for women offenders, launched in Bristol. Since then more than 70 women have been referred through the scheme. Not only that, but I have secured 3 years of funding from the Somerset Community Safety Partnership to roll the scheme out into South Gloucestershire and Somerset.

Q2. You also hoped to develop gender-responsive services in Somerset. Has that happened too?

We commissioned specialist women services charity Nelson Trust to deliver SHE. This funding has enabled and encouraged them to establish a women’s centre in Bridgwater, Somerset. They are in the process of acquiring a building and their efforts have been warmly received by local agencies and partners due to the ground work I put in as part of my scholarship work to highlight the need for such a service. This will be the first place in Somerset to offer gender-responsive services and will fill the gap in services which I sought to fill as part of my idea.

Q3. What advice would you give to others who have good ideas for making the justice system better?

The lessons I have learnt from undertaking the scholarship and then trying to put it into practice and to turn the idea into reality is twofold.

Firstly, it will take time. Nothing happens quickly especially when working with public sector organisations. I think people need to be aware that it may take up to two years to get your idea off the ground.

Secondly you need leadership and persistence. You will need to demonstrate leadership skills and be able to convince people that the idea they want to turn into a reality has merit and needs their support. You will need to be persistent and tenacious to overcome the multiple obstacles in your way.

Rebecca MarshallRebecca Marshall is currently the Pathway Co-ordinator for Integrated Offender Management in Avon and Somerset Constabulary. She is responsible for developing/improving access to support services for offenders (accommodation, drugs, alcohol, education, employment etc).