Merseyside Women’s Services Alliance relaunched

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner, Emily Spurrell, has today relaunched the region’s Women’s Services Alliance with the aim of cutting crime and preventing women’s lives being derailed by short prison sentences.

The majority of women sent to prison in England and Wales last year were handed sentences of six months or less, according to the Prison Reform Trust. Non-violent crimes like shoplifting were the most frequent offence.

Yet these short sentences are known to have huge consequences, leading to women losing their jobs, custody of their children and their homes, leaving families devastated.

The Commissioner has relaunched Merseyside’s Women’s Services Alliance to focus on how partners can work together to try and prevent women offending, while also identifying where community sentences may be an appropriate alternative, avoiding the harm a prison sentence causes to them and their families.

The Alliance, which met for the first time today, brings together strategic partners from across criminal justice agencies, statutory and third-sector organisations. Chaired by Deputy Police Commissioner, Cllr Jeanie Bell, it will focus its efforts on further improving the way all agencies across Merseyside respond and support women already in the criminal justice system and those on the edge of offending, to improve outcomes for women and families across the region.

By seeking to identify and put effective interventions in place to prevent and reduce the causes and triggers of women offending and reoffending, the Alliance will be focused on trying to break the cycle of crime.

The work of the Alliance will support the PCC’s policing and crime priority to Drive Change and Prevent Offending within her Police and Crime Plan. As national Joint Lead for Criminal Justice and Custody on behalf of all Police and Crime Commissioners, Emily is also focused on bringing learning and best practice to Merseyside, while driving improvements nationally.

Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner, Emily Spurrell said: “When women with experiences of violence, poor mental health and addiction are left unsupported, families can be torn apart and communities can face more crime, crime that could have been avoided if the right interventions were in place.

“Many women who are caught up in the criminal justice system are among the most vulnerable in society. Many have also been the victim of far greater crimes than the ones they’ve committed, and this can be a driver for their offending.

“We need to meet the needs of women when they come into services, and not just at the point of entering the criminal justice system.

“By responding to their needs and taking a preventative approach, we can cut crime, improve lives and help families stay together, helping to protect the lives of children and young people as well.

“I am really grateful to all the partners for their commitment to reforming this improved partnership focused on driving forward real change and creating better outcomes for the lives of women and our communities.”   

The Alliance will deliver against a series of key strategic objectives, which are set in the national Female Offender Strategy Delivery Plan, coordinating a cross-sector response to women in the criminal justice system, and those on the periphery of offending.

Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Cllr Jeanie Bell said: “Women are far more likely to receive a short prison sentence for ‘lower level’ offences than men. These short sentences, sometimes just days or weeks, can have a devastating effect, leading to women losing their homes and custody of their children.

“This in turn has a far greater impact on the lives of entire families, young people and the communities in which they live in. Evidence shows that community interventions can be a far more effective way to rehabilitate women, helping to address underlying issues, and prevent them from reoffending.”

The Probation – North West Division’s strategic lead for women, Carla Jonesadded: “Women in contact with the criminal justice system are amongst the most vulnerable in society. Many experience trauma, domestic abuse, mental health problems or have a history of alcohol and drug misuse. Factors that can lead men and women to commit crime, and to reoffend, can vary significantly.

“We know an approach that takes account of the different needs and backgrounds of women is most effective in addressing their offending behaviour.

“The re-launch of the Merseyside Women’s Service Alliance provides a real opportunity for Merseyside partners to come together to develop a whole systems approach in addressing the often complex needs of women in, or at risk of entering, the Criminal Justice System.

“The Alliance will maximise opportunities to break down the barriers often faced by female offenders and in some cases prevent offending through early intervention and diversion from the criminal justice system into much needed support.”