Charlotte Pritchard, Senior Commissioning and Policy Officer at Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset, spoke to us about the SHE project.
SHE stands for support, help and engagement and is a point-of-arrest diversion scheme for women specifically. The scheme is delivered across Avon and Somerset and is led by the Nelson Trust with funding from the Community Safety Partnership, amongst others. Funding will take the project through to 2020.
Currently, a woman who is arrested and brought to custody can be referred to SHE either as part of a community resolution or conditional caution, or a voluntary referral can be made through the custody and courts referral service. Women will attend an initial appointment at a women’s centre to discuss their needs, the SHE worker will then look to work with that female in addressing these needs. Most women have three or more needs. There are nine identified areas of need including drugs and alcohol, abuse, sex work and children and families. The SHE worker holds cases for about 3 months, less if there is no requirement to. Most women seek support around accommodation, DA support, substance misuse and mental health. Attitudes, thinking and behaviour is also a common need but difficult to address through existing services, this is something that Charlotte hopes will be developed as part of the service’s future.
The expected outcomes are reducing re-offending, increased satisfaction of female experiences of the criminal justice system, addressing the holistic needs of female offenders and also furthering and developing an understanding of female offender needs.
Currently SHE sits within the out of court disposal framework and also as part of the custody and courts referral service. Where a statutory service may be involved with the individual, they can sometimes take the lead and SHE will offer support where they can. This has happened with NPS/CRC and social services, SHE has taken a step back and just offered more of a mentoring/contact approach rather than being the lead. This is entirely reflective of the collaborative nature of the work.
Charlotte highlighted that, following the Corston Report, recommendations were made to implement a gender responsive criminal justice system due to the complexities found with female offenders, and this, amongst learning from elsewhere, influenced their decision to do this work with women. She said they took learning from the South Wales model and following the Bristol pilot, a number of other forces have adopted a similar model, however a number are delivered through CRC providers.
The Nelson Trust are a small organisation who are highly experienced in supporting women, this is what makes SHE different; it provides an intensive and holistic approach across the whole criminal justice system, with an opportunity to be part of an OOCD or voluntary referral, this in theory should capture all women who enter custody. The Nelson Trust ensure all staff are trauma informed and use this approach in all that they do.
This case-study was compiled and edited by Jaskirat Mann in 2018