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Project supporting female offenders set to expand

A bid to expand a ground-breaking initiative launched by Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) earlier in the year has received further support from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).

The WONDER Project, which offers support to women in police custody to help them turn their lives around, has secured funding to extend its services across the county.

Launching the pilot project in February 2017, PCC Lorne Green said: “If we’re going to reduce offending, then we have to understand what makes people vulnerable to committing crime.

“Unemployment, money worries, drug or alcohol dependency, sex-working, mental health issues, domestic and sexual abuse – any one, or combination of these, could be a contributory factor.

“The female offenders coming into contact with our criminal justice system often have complex needs, and can be some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged women in society. It is vital they are able to access help and support to address the root causes and consequences of what they’re doing.”

The PCC teamed up with Julian Support, the Sue Lambert Trust and the Magdalene Group to deliver the initial 12-month WONDER pilot project, offering help and support to female detainees released from police custody facilities in Wymondham and King’s Lynn, assessing their personal circumstances and developing tailored support plans.

Thanks to this new three-year MOJ funding award, the PCC will be inviting bids from organisations wanting to deliver the expansion of the Project - not only geographically, to cover all rural and urban areas of Norfolk, but also beyond Norfolk’s custody facilities.

Over the next four years, WONDER will work across the whole criminal justice system, engaging with women receiving non-custodial sentences or out of court disposals, those involved in community resolutions, and also those attending county, magistrates and family courts.

The project will also link in with Peterborough Prison, which receives all female prisoners from Norfolk, informing support plans put in place while a woman is imprisoned and providing a point of re-referral for support and mentoring when she comes back into the community.

The county’s health services will also have a role to play in this county-wide whole system approach, identifying and referring to the project vulnerable women who are at risk of offending, and seeking to align specific pathways, for instance, for mental health or pregnancy.

Justice Minister Dr Phillip Lee said: “I am delighted to announce this investment in support for female offenders, which will help local areas to support vulnerable women and get them out of the cycle of crime.

“Many women who are at risk of offending or reoffending have a range of complex circumstances - our funding will help local areas provide the support women need to lead crime-free lives, helping to reduce reoffending, cut crime and make our streets safer."