The Footprints scheme seeks to divert women away from the criminal justice system through the use of out of court disposals and participants are supported to address a range of needs.

Jenny Howard, the Adult Out of Court Disposals Manager from Dorset Police, told us about their diversion scheme.

In April 2019 Dorset Police implemented a two-tier framework for adult out of court disposals (OoCDs). In order to meet objectives around addressing vulnerability and reducing reoffending, the move to two-tier was accompanied by a process for issuing conditions for OoCDs, depending on the vulnerability of the offender. A number of different diversions have been commissioned for different offender groups. Footprints, a local charity who have been working with offenders, both male and female, for 15 years were commissioned to provide support to vulnerable women. To develop this scheme, Footprints recruited a female support worker and canvased female volunteers to provide one-to-one support.

How the scheme works

The Footprints Women’s Diversionary Scheme is open to any woman over the age of 18 who is resident in Dorset and is given an OoCD. Women are flagged for the scheme when a police officer identifies that they are suitable for an OoCD and would benefit from the support on offer. Frontline officers are encouraged to consider an OoCD and the Footprints Scheme in cases where they would normally have charged. If the woman accepts the OoCD and agrees to the condition, a referral by the Adult OoCD Team is made to Footprints.

Participants must agree to engage with the service for ‘up to 16 weeks’ - however the level of engagement will depend on a needs assessment. Support is a mixture of face-to-face and telephone contact. There is an element of signposting to further specialised services to address a range of needs such as mental health, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, sex working, family and relationships, financial issues, housing, employment etc. Staff support the woman to engage with these services by assisting with completing forms and by accompanying her to meetings if required.

At the end of the intervention if the woman has fully engaged the OoCD outcome will remain. If she does not engage the officer may take the decision to prosecute the original offence. Training has been provided to all front line officers on referring into the scheme.


The introduction of the two-tier framework and the OoCD diversion options were a big change for officers and to begin with there was slow uptake for referrals. Due to this Footprints lost the interest of some volunteers and therefore the majority of the work has been provided by the paid support worker. The funding grant for years 2 and 3 is sufficient to ensure that the core work can be completed by paid workers.


So far 66 women have been referred to the scheme. Re-offending data has been collated for the 18 who have reached the six-month post disposal date and none of them have re-offended. A dip sample from a control group of female offenders given an OoCD in 2018 prior to the scheme being launched indicated a re-offending rate of 16%.

Women who have participated in the Footprints scheme have provided the following testimonials:

“Hi, everything is going really well, I now know my universal credit amount, so I’m now working with Citizens Advice to tackle the debts. You First are meeting with me next week to start the process of getting the tenancy in my sole name. I feel like everything is starting to become easier as I tackle each hurdle. But know I’m heading in the right direction with everything now”

“I wanted to let you know I’ve found a counsellor and I’ve started seeing her fortnightly. She lives in Boscombe so I can walk there after work and then pick D up from nursery just over the road when I’m done. She is a very good fit for me and I’m confident we will work well together. She also said she is there for support via text or email if I need it, so I suppose really your work here is done. Thank you for taking the time to check in on me, I hope the work you do with Footprints leads to more good things for other people too.”


This case-study was compiled in 2020

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