Community services for women who commit crimes - under valued and under threat

Probation staff are doing some excellent work with women who commit crime, but their efforts are hampered by a lack of accommodation for women, doubts over the future of Women’s Centres, and a lack of funding. These women can sometimes turn their lives around, but they need the right support. With less funding available, and without a clear strategy for women, this is likely to get increasingly difficult and so leave more women more likely to re-offend, said Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation. Today she published a report, A thematic inspection of the provision and quality of services in the community for women who offend.

One in 10 offenders being supervised by probation services are women. They differ from male offenders, in that they tend to offend for different reasons, commit less serious offences and reoffend less. They have more often experienced abuse, trauma, depression and substance misuse, and often respond to different approaches and interventions, when compared to men.

The inspection explored the quality and effectiveness of services for women after the implementation of the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme. It looked at work that had been commissioned, delivered or accessed by Community Rehabilitation Companies or the National Probation Service. Inspectors previously looked at services for women in 2011, four years after publication of the pivotal Corston report. Following a strong lead from the Ministry of Justice and National Offender Management Service (NOMS), a great deal was achieved between 2007 and 2011, although services were nevertheless inconsistent and performance measures scarce.

This more recent inspection found no better published performance measures and much less focus on women as a distinct group. There were excellent individual examples of work being done by probation staff and others, but the availability and range of provision in the community is still inconsistent.

In recent years, dedicated funding for women has virtually disappeared, and so the future of some services, and in particular those provided by Women’s Centres, was in doubt. There was also a lack of available accommodation for women. The inspection found cases where Women’s Centres had been pivotal in turning women away from crime and helping them to rebuild their lives.

Dame Glenys Stacey said:

“After the improvements we saw when we last inspected, in 2011, it is disappointing to see that progress has stalled. Women differ from men – they offend for different reasons, and they often need different sorts of support, to turn away from crime. Women’s centres were doing some excellent work to help women do that, and to rebuild their lives. These centres need recognition, support and funding so that they can continue to help these women and make communities safer.”


Notes to Editors:

  1. A copy of this report can be found on HM Inspectorate of Probation’s website at from 28 September 2016.
  2. HMI Probation is an independent inspectorate, sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, and reporting directly to the Secretary of State on the effectiveness of work with adults, children and young people who have offended, aimed at reducing reoffending and protecting the public.
  3. Periodically, the issue of women in the criminal justice system attracts attention. In 2007 the Corston Report outlined women’s distinctive needs and called for a woman-centred approach to tackling offending. The Corston report can be found here (PDF, 744 kB).
  4. HMI Probation’s last inspection of services for women offenders, Equal but Different: an inspection of the use of alternatives to custody for women offenders, published in 2011, can be found here.
  5. Women’s centres are local “one-stop-shops” that may provide a range of services, including counselling, help with accommodation and substance misuse and support in finding training, employment and education. Importantly, they provide a safe environment for women to meet their probation officer.
  6. Please contact Jane Parsons in HMI Probation Press Office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information.