WISERD Research Reports Series, WISERD/RRS/008

This research report, commissioned by NOMS Cymru, evaluates the provision of Women’s Turnaround Services (WTS) by the North Wales Women’s Centre (NWWC), based in Rhyl, North Wales between 1 April 2010 and 31 March 2011. The Women’s Turnaround Service was piloted in North Wales in May 2009 and fully established by April 2010. The WTS in North Wales was based on the work done in South Wales and the NWWC received help and support from the South Wales WTS. The WTS provides holistic one-to-one support for women in the criminal justice system or those at risk of offending.

The evaluation was tasked with assessing the impact of WTS provision on women’s lives, their needs ranging from mental health to housing, and their offending behaviour, from the perspectives of WTS staff, referral staff, and the women themselves. The main findings of the evaluation are that the take-up of the WTS service over the evaluation period indicates a clear level of need for a WTS service in the region; that women’s needs were high across a number of offending pathways; that the wrap-around service provided allowed women to address their problems at their own pace and empowered them to change; that the ‘at risk’ category of women was insufficiently defined; and that outreach work is important in a rural region.

Some of the key recommendations are that the WTS should be voluntary, so that clients are prepared and, able, to change; the WTS should support case workers in being able to listen and respond with empathy; and enable intensive work with clients which is responsive to, and led by, client need. WTS support needs to be underpinned by a solid knowledge and good working relationship with services available locally; willing to support clients in their dealings with agencies, especially gatekeepers to other services and benefits; and provide a non-judgemental, client-led service which empowers women to resolve their own problems and build a better life. Management of WTS provision needs to be tight, in order to recognise that client failure to engage may indicate that the client/worker relationship is malfunctioning and that a change of worker or a mentor might help the woman to progress. In North Wales, and in particular, in Gwynedd and on Anglesey, service provision needs to be bilingual and Welsh speaking case workers need to be accessible. Ideally service provision is based on a network of outreach workers who are readily and flexibly available to clients. Finally, exit strategies need to be clearly managed and monitored, possibly involving peer mentoring/”buddying”.