Health Matters evaluation

Health Matters was a three-year health project run by Women in Prison between 2016-2019 and funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. Health Matters aimed to make a difference to health outcomes for women in prison and women affected by the criminal justice system through providing advocacy, support, advice, workshops, information and health promotion. The project also undertook co-production of services such as producing a health booklet together with women with lived experience of the criminal justice system and by training peer mentors to facilitate stress management groups in prison. By building an evidence base of the health needs of women in the criminal justice system, the project aimed to facilitate systems change and improve health structures.

During the course of the Health Matters project, the team worked alongside AVA (Against Violence and Abuse - a national charity working to end violence against women and girls) who undertook an external evaluation of the Health Matters project. AVA’s final report outlines the success of the Health Matters project and shows the value of independent advocacy services in helping women feel listened to, cared for and valued, more in control of their health, more confident about speaking up and more able to access additional support services.

The report makes a number of recommendations to various stakeholders including prisons, funders and policy makers. Recommendations include:

  • Prisons should provide independent health advocates to act as a bridge between prison healthcare and women and support prison staff with screenings and health promotion
  • Prisons should have a designated point of contact to liaise with external support agencies working in the establishment
  • Prisons should have in place various routine screenings on arrival to prison, with women opting out instead of opting in
  • Funders should make sure projects are long-term enough to be able to influence systemic and institutional changes
  • The Ministry of Justice and the Department of Health should work together to invest in trauma-informed ways of working with women
  • The Government should adopt a presumption against short sentencing of women and a presumption against the use of remand for women, given the difficulties in providing healthcare to women who are only in prison for a short period of time
  • The Ministry of Justice and the Department of Health need to work together to invest in better healthcare and mental health support for women with multiple needs in the community.

Building on the success of the Health Matters project, Women in Prison are delighted that the National Lottery Community Fund have agreed to fund the delivery of another health project for a further three years. The new project Healthy Foundations will be working with women leaving prison and women residing in the community in London.

Read the full external evaluation report by AVA here