Surrey’s Women’s Justice Intervention scheme went live in June 2016 and transitioned to Checkpoint Plus in January 2019. The service diverts women out of the formal criminal justice system into a holistic support package. The team is based at the Women’s Support Centre Surrey and works in partnership with Surrey Police.
Who is eligible?
To be eligible for the scheme women need to live in Surrey, have offended in Surrey, have committed an offence which is eligible for an out of court disposal, and admit to the offence. Women are referred from Surrey Police (via a multi-agency panel) and receive one-to-one support from a trauma-informed specialist worker, who can provide key interventions and refer to specialist partner agencies.
At the point of arrest women are diverted from the traditional criminal justice route and supported to address their crime and the root causes of their offending. The support provided includes sessions around key pathways to offending including mental health needs, substance misuse and domestic abuse. During 2018/19, 79% of the women supported by the service had experienced or were experiencing domestic abuse, 72% had a mental health concern and 69% were using drugs and/or alcohol.
The Women’s Support Centre Surrey is managed by the national organisation Women in Prison and is independent from Surrey Police. We are in a strong position to work holistically with the women referred, and they are often far more willing to engage with an independent organisation. Following their Checkpoint Plus intervention, many women continue to receive support from the other projects available at the Centre.
Interventions seek to address the causes of offending behaviour and underlying reasons. Mandatory sessions are agreed by the caseworker and the client. The expectation is that these sessions will be completed, otherwise the case will go back to the multi-agency referral panel, and an alternative criminal justice system outcome can be decided. In 2018/19 over 95% of women successfully completed their interventions.
All interventions are based on a restorative practice approach; if the victim wishes to meet with the client for a face-to-face session (and it is deemed appropriate) then this is facilitated by the caseworker. Alternatives to a face-to-face meeting can include a letter of apology or statement of reflection written by the client. As well as mandatory activities (linked to the offence/underlying reasons behind offending) clients are also offered voluntary sessions. These are linked to issues that were self-identified during the needs assessment and are aimed at further reducing the risk of reoffending and creating a platform from which to move forward.
A number of clients have children living with them at the time of their referral to the service. In some cases, although Children’s Services are involved and the children are subject to a child protection order, our interventions can enable Children’s Services to disengage. In 2018/19 seven of our clients had children remain living in the home or returned from foster care as a result of the successfully completing their interventions with us.
Satisfaction with the service is very high: in 2018/19 clients rated their overall satisfaction with the service an average of 9.6 out of 10.
Women who used the scheme have said:
“I’ve totally turned my life around, some being my own doing and some down to Checkpoint… I’m so, so happy with the help and support I’ve had – it’s been invaluable.”
“I think it gives people another chance and some hope for a better future.”
“It gives people a second chance in life because everyone makes mistakes. The program helped me deal with problems head on and has stopped me from getting in trouble again.”