Kairos is a Coventry-based women's charity who have developed a womens justice support service for women who are in contact with the criminal justice system who are also subject to, or at risk of, sexual exploitation.

We spoke to Hannah Coban (Head of Service Delivery) and their Specialist Justice Practitioner at Kairos to find out more about their work in women's justice.

Kairos is a charity based in Coventry, run by women, for women who have multiple and complex unmet needs, and who are subject to or at risk of sexual exploitation. Kairos offers practical and emotional support, advocacy, awareness raising, peer support groups, outreach and drop-ins. Hannah explains that the service is voluntary which allows them the opportunity to respond to a woman as and when she is ready for help, the support is open-ended and led by the woman. Kairos is an ancient Greek word meaning “the right or critical moment for change or crucial action. Kairos holds space for women until the time is right for them to take action towards their goals. There are currently 13 staff members, including 9 frontline practitioners, and 18 volunteers which support the work of Kairos. Kairos supports on average 130 women a month. Within Kairos, the Specialist Justice Practitioner leads on their Women's Justice service, supported by a Support and Advocacy Practitioner. This service is for women who are subject to or at risk of sexual exploitation, who are also in contact with the criminal justice system.

Women’s Justice Support - Court Process

Kairos offer support through their women's justice programme through three different pathways. 

  • Prison in-reach services, including at HMP Peterborough
  • Release day support and post-release support in the community
  • Accompaniment to and support with court hearings and through criminal justice processes

The Specialist Justice Practitioner supports women in all of the above situations. As part of this service, she supports and assists women to find legal representation, to understand their rights, responsibilities and supports them to navigate engagement with their legal teams. The Specialist Justice Practitioner also provides practical support to ensure the woman feels prepared for court by providing access to smart clothes, support with transportation, help to prepare a bag or write down their key contact numbers should they be sentenced to custody. 

Women’s Justice Support - In custody 

The women that Kairos support often face multiple, complex and unmet needs. The Specialist Justice Practitioner explains that many of the women that she supports through the prison in reach service don’t have stable support networks in their communities. She works within a multi-agency arena to ensure women’s needs are met prior to release. This can include liaising with solicitors to follow up on a woman’s case and help her to understand her options, and liaising with housing providers to explore accommodation options to reduce the risk of homelessness upon release. 

Women are offered support on the day of their release, which is a particularly stressful time as there are multiple appointments to keep track of and to attend and new information to process. The Specialist Justice Practitioner is aware that this is a high-pressure day and without support can often lead to a woman being at high risk of sexual exploitation or re-offending. The Specialist Justice Practitioner explains that often women are expected to attend appointments at offices where there is a high chance of them bumping into their perpetrator. When women leave prison, they can often be immediately placed back in situations that increase their risk of reoffending. Kairos offers an alternative through intensive support and advocacy, and awareness raising of the importance of a trauma informed and women-centred approach amongst relevant criminal justice agencies.

“Thank you for helping me and going away to do those things for me, it makes my life so much easier and happier knowing that someone is there for me and is going to help me out no matter what. Just saying thank you, and I’ll never forget you and Kairos, for being the people that got me here. I needed you and all the support you give to push me and just thank you.” - Service user

"You are the only person that comes to see in prison, I have no one else. I know that I am not forgotten when I am in here" – Service user

Women's Justice Support - In community

On the day of release, Kairos will meet women at the train station or if someone is particularly vulnerable, will pick them up from the gate. They support women to engage with the probation service. This is in the effort to reduce barriers and increase chances of successfully completing their licence periods or community orders. The Probation Service are invited to hold appointments at Kairos’s women's hub to provide a safe space for women to attend their appointments. Support is also provided to help women access benefits, physical, mental and sexual healthcare services. 

The Specialist Justice Practitioner explains that justice services are largely male centred, with women in the minority and so often their needs are not fully understood. Kairos delivers training on their approach to supporting women, being trauma-informed and women-centred to organisations such as Probation. 

"What would we do without you, you have helped me so much, you're my lifeline". – Service user

"I said I would always make myself free for yous, Now I'm really going to try my hardest to engage and things I'm really glad I do have you as a support worker you make me involve myself a lot more and I like that I need it to be honest so thank you for pushing me and helping me believe I'm capable." - Service user

Other Kairos services

Alongside their women's justice service there are a number of services for women in Coventry. 

  • Feeling Safe is for young women aged 16-25 who are subject to or at risk of sexual exploitation. Hannah explains there was often a gap in support through the transition to adulthood. Young women who experience sexual abuse as children often lack support after their 18th birthday. Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, Feeling Safe aims to support and empower young women to increase their safety, stability, self-belief and self-resilience.  
  • Aspire is a service for women aged 25 and over who are subject to or at risk of sexual exploitation, including women in street-based prostitution. Women are provided with both practical and emotional assistance for issues such as with their accommodation, substance misuse, poverty, exploitative relationships and crisis work.
  • Evening Outreach and Drop in service in the Hillfields area of Coventry where women are invited to access a warm space and essential items, including clothing, toiletries, meals and harm reduction items. It is also an opportunity for women to be supported with disclosures of sexual violence.
  • A Home Of Her Own supports women who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, face housing instability, or are currently in unsafe and/or unsuitable accommodation
  • Wonder Women Wednesdays is a daytime multi-agency ‘one stop’ support drop-in, providing access to a safe space, hot meal, shower, housing support, IDVA, ISVA, and substance use support, legal advice, a therapist, and support staff from other partner organisations.
  • Blossoms is a peer support and ante/post-natal group for women across our services who are pregnant or have recently had a baby, many of who have experienced and/or are facing child removal. Delivered in partnership with a Specialist Midwife, the focus is on maternal health and wellbeing, positive engagement with social care, and improved outcomes for children.

Kairos’ prison in-reach service was evaluated by Coventry University in 2018. The evaluation highlighted the importance of face-to-face contact with women throughout their prison stay as it signals support and care. The evaluation discusses the loneliness and isolation women experience while serving custodial sentences and the significant benefit that a support practitioner being consistently present can have for a woman's outcomes once they leave prison. In this way, with Kairos's support, a prison stay can be an opportunity to make the changes for a better life. 


Hannah tells us Kairos is always trying to strengthen partnerships between themselves and other agencies as successful partnership working stops women falling through the gaps in support and ensures their needs are met. Hannah hopes to raise awareness for how challenging it is to be a woman in the criminal justice system. Women are further disadvantaged once they leave prison as there is a lack of women-centred and trauma-informed support. She hopes to increase the number of agencies supporting at Wonder Women Wednesday drop-in to provide an even bigger range of support to women.

For more information about Kairos and their Women’s Justice service, please contact Hannah Coban, Head of Service Delivery hannah@kairoswwt.org.uk 

Case study by Leontine Gnaly, 2024

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