PRESS RELEASE: Women’s Centres Demand Better Funding to Avert “Cliff Edge” Crisis at their first Mass Lobby of Parliament  Wed 26th June
Embargoed until 00:01 on 26/06/2019:

Contact: Laura Hill 07782298065,

  Women’s Centres Demand Better Funding to Avert ‘Cliff Edge’ Crisis at their first Mass Lobby of Parliament 
Wed 26th June

Women’s centres from across the country are converging on Westminster on Wednesday June 26th to demand that the £80million accrued from the sale of HMP Holloway is reinvested in centres and support services to help to radically reduce female re-offending. 

Sixty percent of women on short sentences re-offend within a year of release. Government has acknowledged that the current system of passing sentences of weeks and months for non-violent low-level offences such as theft, shoplifting and non-payment of fines for TV license defaulting is less effective than sentences served in the community with robust support to address issues such as problematic substance use and mental ill health. 

Dr Kate Paradine, CEO of the charity Women in Prison (which is organising the lobby) says, “If the Treasury spent the £80 million it received from the sale of Holloway Prison on specialist support for women and children, including domestic violence services and women’s centres, the results would be transformational - for women, children and communities, and for generations to come.”

This week is also the first anniversary of the Government’s Female Offender Strategy. The Government has said that women’s centres and specialist support services to tackle the root causes of offending are at the heart of its strategy.  Women’s centres are key to the recommendations of the recent Farmer Review (published last week) which addressed the impact on children when a mother is imprisoned. They are also vital in Government proposals to reduce the number of prison sentences of under a year given to women and increased access to mental health and problematic substance use treatment as part of community sentences.

In many cases women’s services face a funding ‘cliff edge’ in 2020/21. At the lobby representatives from some of the forty women’s centres in England and Wales will reinforce the message from Lord Farmer that these centres  face a “desperately precarious” funding position, jeopardising services “which are essential to the rehabilitation and rebuilding of the lives of so many women”. 

A major part of the lobby will be women asking MPs to #OPENUP Women’s Futures and help to enact a ten point plan outlined in WIP’s #OPENUP Women’s Futures Manifesto launched on the day . A key ‘ask’ in the manifesto is for HM Treasury to invest the £80m from the sale of HMP Holloway in the Women’s Centre network and other community support services.  

Dr Paradine says, “The network of Women’s Centres is an opportunity to lay the foundations for a new system. If we invest now that would make the UK global leaders, setting an international example in how to reduce the human and financial cost of imprisonment and create healthier and safer communities. This is all in our power.”


Editor’s Notes

  • Women in Prison is a charity founded 35 years ago. It provides support, advice and guidance to women affected by the criminal justice system (including in Women’s Centres in Woking, Manchester and Lambeth) and campaigns to prevent the harm caused to women, their families and our communities by imprisonment.
  • 3,759 women are held in 12 prisons in England. Women make up around 5% of the prison population. The vast majority have committed low level non-violent offences.  73% of women in prison are serving sentences of less than 12 months.
  • The UK is unique in having a network of around 40 Women’s Centres[1] which provide holistic support to women affected by the criminal justice system and are proven to reduce reoffending more effectively than a prison sentence.  A Women’s Centre is a space dedicated to specialist services for women facing multiple disadvantages, including those caught up in the criminal justice system.
  • Official data and reports from the Women’s Budget Group set out how women and children have been disproportionately impacted by changes to the benefits system and public spending budget cuts.
  • Root causes of women’s offending are often linked to domestic abuse and trauma (including in childhood), mental ill health, problematic substance use, homelessness and poverty.  Around 60% of women in prison have experience of domestic abuse and almost a third grew up in care.
  • The vast majority of women are in prison on short sentences for low level offending, often theft.
  • Women are far more likely than men to be primary carers and, in 95% of cases when a mother goes to prison, her children end up leaving their family home to live with relatives or go into the care system.   Having a parent in prison increases the chances that a child will offend, particularly when their mother is imprisoned.
  • Please see below image for #OPENUP WOMEN’S FUTURES manifesto
  • Women’s centres taking part include Beth Centre in Lambeth, Women’s Support Centre in Woking, Anawim in Birmingham, Nottingham Women’s Centre, Nelson Trust (Gloucester), Brighton Women’s Centre, Lancashire Women’s Centre, Together Women, the Greater Manchester Women’s Support Alliance and others.