Charlotte Pritchard, Senior Commissioning and Policy Officer at the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset, spoke to us about Project SHE with updates provided by Caroline Elwood, Out of Court Disposals Team Manager.
What inspired this project?
Following the Corston Report, recommendations were made to implement a gender-responsive criminal justice system due to the complexities found within women who offend. This was the main influence in creating Project SHE with learning being taken from the South Wales model.
About Project SHE
SHE stands for Support, Help, and Engagement and is a point-of-arrest diversion scheme specifically for women. Led by Nelson Trust, the scheme is delivered across Avon and Somerset and was initially funded by the Community Safety Partnership, amongst others, until 2020. Due to successful implementation, the scheme was recommissioned in 2021 and continues to be led by Nelson Trust.
What makes SHE different is that the Nelson Trust are a small organisation who are highly experienced in supporting women through a trauma-informed approach. Their expected outcomes are to reduce re-offending, increase the satisfaction of women’s experiences in the criminal justice system, address the holistic needs of women who offend as well as furthering and develop an understanding of their needs.
To access the project, women can be referred to it in three ways:
- If the offence is eligible for a community resolution or conditional caution
- If the offence is not eligible for the above, women can request a voluntary referral from within custody
- Self-referral by contacting a SHE worker
Since the project began in December 2018, 227 referrals have been made as part of a conditional caution or community resolution. Women who are referred via this method can engage with the project for up to 16 weeks but this can last longer if necessary whereas other referrals can access the project for three months.
After the initial contact, women will attend an appointment with a SHE worker within a women’s centre in which their needs will be discussed. Needs can include drugs and alcohol, accommodation, children and families, physical and mental health, education, training, and employment, finance, abuse, sex work, and attitudes, thinking, and behaviour. The majority of women have three or more needs that require tailored support which the SHE worker will implement after the meeting.
Currently, SHE sits within the out-of-court disposal framework and as part of the custody and courts referral service. Where a statutory service may be involved with the individual, they can at times take the lead and SHE will instead offer support if necessary in the form of mentoring. Such services include the National Probation Service (NPS), Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), and social services.
Project SHE is currently undergoing an evaluation.
If you would like to learn more about this project, please contact Caroline Elwood at Caroline.Elwood@avonandsomerset.police.uk.
This case study was compiled and edited by Jaskirat Mann in 2018 and updated by Maysa Clam in 2022