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COMMENDEES 2016-17: Nichola, Kerry, Sandra and Angela, from Tomorrow’s Women Wirral, receive a Commendation for their contributions to the support of female offenders on Community Payback orders supervised by Merseyside CRC.

With the Tomorrow’s Women Wirral (TWW) project, Nichola Boughey, Kerry Howard, Sandra Jones & Angela Murphy have helped achieve a new ‘gold standard’ in Merseyside for women undertaking Community Payback (CP) orders: a women-centred and supportive environment delivering new skills – and new hope.

Nominator John Quick, Head of Operations at Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC), explains that TWW is “an adult female-only charity that was opened by Baroness Corston in 2011 and embodies the principles outlined in the Corston Report which set the future quality standards for working with female offenders as credible alternatives to imprisonment.” The project provides “a safe, all female environment that is committed to reducing offending by providing support and positive choices to women who seek better lives.”

Describing the creation of a Community Payback (CP) project within a women’s centre as “a phenomenal achievement”, John says Angela Murphy, Director of TWW, collaborated with Kerry Howard, a CRC staff member, “to break down barriers and create opportunities for women offenders to complete their court orders in a female-friendly environment.” Nichola Boughey is the project supervisor, with ex-service user Sandra Jones working as a volunteer supervisor – having completed her 240 community payback hours in record time.

Merseyside CRC has a team of women workers based in the centre who supervise women offenders and facilitate access to over 125 interventions to prevent further offending. Angela, Nicky, Kerry and Sandra “have created a rare opportunity which allows women to complete their court orders within this environment whilst earning qualifications and learning new skills alongside other women who access the centre.”

The numbers are impressive, too: over 7,000 certificates have been awarded since the centre opened. Many of the programmes are accredited – and around 1,800 women have gone on to access long term employment, training and education.

Rosie Goodwin, Butler Trust Local Champion and Community Director at Merseyside CRC, has no doubt as to the value of this project: “Traditionally, Community Payback schemes struggle to accommodate women sentenced to periods of unpaid work (UPW). This is often the first type of sentence handed out to women who get caught up in the criminal justice system and are therefore at the periphery of more serious problems.”

As Rosie explains, “Quite often women are placed alongside men on work projects or allocated to charity shops where they often feel isolated.”

The TWW option delivers at a different level, explains Rosie: “Not only do the women achieve the sentence of the court in record time, they learn new skills which increase employability, self-efficacy and the potential for new beginnings.”

As the strategic lead for women’s services across Merseyside, Cheshire and Greater Manchester, Rosie’s vision is “to use this model as a gold standard for other women’s centres and achieve what many would have believed was impossible had it not been for the determination of these nominees to work together to succeed.”

Rosie says Angela “has taken TWW and the CRC female caseload on the Wirral and integrated the two beyond anything I have seen in my professional life. Walking through the doors of TWW is an experience in itself and it is hard to recognise who is staff, members of the public or service users. However, everyone is busy!” Praising “Nic’s ingrained assessment skills,” adding, “she is warm, considerate, approachable but has clear boundaries which women respect. Women do not want to let Nic down.”

“Due to Sandra’s Criminal Justice experience she offers empathy, encouragement, personal experience and skills to support women to complete their hours,” says Rosie. “She is just brilliant!” Meanwhile she points out that Kerry “played a central role in achieving the delicate balance of not only enforcing the court order but also ensuring that the women truly benefitted from the holistic range of services offered at TWW. This cannot be underestimated.”

Chris Noah, Chief Executive of Merseyside and Cheshire & Greater Manchester CRC, calls the project “an outstanding model of support for women offenders which has been widely praised by service users and professional probation peers alike”, and “an excellent example of a project that encourages women who recognise the need to ‘pay back’ for their offences, while supporting them in addressing the particular challenges they face so that they become valuable members of the community.”

Results are impressive, with breach rates low and the majority of the women completing their hours with additional qualifications. Other success stories include the creation of a new community garden and, using their painting and decorating skills, the refurbishment of an old school hall – now called ‘Inspiration Hall’ – opened by the Mayor of Wirral in 2015.

Community Garden - before, during & after

Community Garden – before, during & after

Between March 2015 and April 2016, 100% of women who commenced their CP completed their hours at TWW, many in record time. The project is “a vibrant blueprint for future partnerships working with women who offend”, and “living proof that barriers for women can be broken when the fusion of therapy and community payback is achieved.”

A powerful video, and a lot more besides, can be found on their website at http://www.tomorrowswomen.org.uk/

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