Award winning project backed by Lancashire’s PCC

Award: Sarah Swindley of Lancashire Women's Centres, collecting the women's section trophy from prof David Wilson. Picture credit: prisonimage.org

Award: Sarah Swindley of Lancashire Women's Centres, collecting the women's section trophy from prof David Wilson. Picture credit: prisonimage.org

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An award-winning scheme that diverts women away from a life of crime has been backed by Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commisioner.

The Avert system provides a service for both low‐level and persistent female offenders and has just won the women’s section accolade at the Howard League for Penal Reform Community Awards.

The early intervention makes such a positive impact to the lives of these women, who could have gone on through the ‘revolving door’ of offending and re-offending, but have instead turned their lives around.

Crime commissioner Clive Grunshaw

Now after the success of the Lancashire Women’s Centre run pilot in Blackburn – which saw 93 per cent of its participants avoid re-offending – and £200,000 worth of funding from the Police Innovation Fund, it is being rolled out across the county.

Crime commissioner Clive Grunshaw opened the Preston centre on Fishergate last week.

He said: “When the Avert project was launched in the East of the county in November 2013, I recognised how unique the scheme was ‐providing early intervention and diverting women away from custody, rather than trying to pick up the pieces once they had been prosecuted and processed through the system.

“The success of the programme has been phenomenal. The early intervention makes such a positive impact to the lives of these women, who could have gone on through the ‘revolving door’ of offending and re-offending, but have instead turned their lives around.”

A ‘triage’ support system within the custody setting is provided to identify the underlying issues that led to them being arrested. The women must then attend three mandatory appointments where they receive continuous contact.

Sarah Swindley, CEO for Lancashire and Cumbria Women’s Centres said: “Avert allows us to integrate women back into society and to help them manage everyday struggles in a more positive way.

“The project offers women a second chance to remove themselves from what had become, for some, a cycle of offending.“