The Rt Hon Alun Michael has launched the Women’s Pathfinder programme of work in Cwm Taf, during an event being held in the Orbit Business Centre, Merthyr Tydfil. It builds on the Cardiff Women’s Pathfinder which has already been given financial support by the Commissioner.
Led by Integrated Offender Management (IOM) Cymru, the approach seeks to take an “early intervention” approach by asking why a woman have been drawn into offending – and doing something about it.
The new initiative is one of four new pilots in Wales and aims to reduce offending and reoffending by women by providing a whole system approach with coherence between Criminal Justice System, health and social care, welfare, children’s and other community services as well as collaboration between partners both within and outside the criminal justice system.
The launch event has highlighted the innovative approaches being developed by the Women’s Pathfinder, including ‘The Diversion Scheme’ which seeks to divert lower risk women away from the Criminal Justice System and into voluntary community interventions and support at the earliest opportunity.
Welcoming the project, the South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, Alun Michael said: “The Diversion Scheme has been piloted in Cardiff since July 2014 and has diverted over 300 women away from the Criminal Justice System into a range of services including housing support, debt advice, mental health services, domestic abuse support and substance misuse interventions. That has helped to reduce crime and the impact on society by offering a way out of problem behaviour at the earliest possible stage.
“We believe there are opportunities to influence and promote the development of early interventions that help women to turn their lives around instead of being drawn deeper into the criminal justice system. This is about more than simply providing the funding, it demonstrates our commitment to work with partners to find every opportunity to intervene at the earliest opportunity and take prompt positive action to keep people safe.
“We are working alongside partners here today to provide a proportionate, holistic; women centric and integrated approach to women’s offending. Proportionate, informed and timely interventions designed to meet the needs of women, at key points of entry into the system, can help prevent offending and reoffending. IOM Cymru’s Women’s Pathfinder is a significant way of improving outcomes for women offenders and their families. It’s about tackling the causes of crime instead of just dealing with incidents. ”
The Cwm Taf Diversion Scheme was launched on the 15th February and is based at South Wales Police’s Merthyr Bridewell Custody suite. A major role for the Diversion Scheme is to assist police custody staff in identifying suspects and defendants with mental health needs, learning disabilities and substance misuse problems or other personal problems and ensure they get the help they need. While some will continue through the criminal justice system, with appropriate support, others will be diverted away from criminal justice and into services for treatment and care.
Katie Benson, one of the women supported by the Women’s Pathfinder, said:
“Unfortunately people find them self in a bad situation sometimes. Without the help of the diversion scheme my situation would have been a lot worse. It’s a good idea to give people a second chance because sometimes a mistake can change your life.”