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Vulnerable female prison leavers who are given intensive resettlement support appear less likely to re-offend, a new evaluation into St Giles Trust’s WIRE project has concluded.
WIRE (Women’s Information and Resettlement for Ex-offenders) offers intensive, one-to-one support on release from prison for needy, vulnerable, persistent female offenders returning to London. It is a female ex-offender led service.
The evaluation, carried out by The Social Innovation Partnership (TSIP), in conjunction with academics at the University of Cambridge and London Metropolitan University, tracked the reconviction rates of 104 women who engaged with the service and for whom offending history data was available. The results indicated that the women’s offending rate halved in the 12 month period after engagement with WIRE.
It has also highlighted:
- The high levels of demand for WIRE
- A highly flexible, needs-led approach
- Intensive work with clients in the early stages from the moment of release
- A possible need to resource a longer term service for the clients to aid long-term resettlement
The researchers also gathered the perspectives of clients and partner agencies as a part of their research. These concluded that clients regarded WIRE as playing a vital role in helping them resettle into the community. Partner agencies valued WIRE’s ability to relieve some of their pressures and work effectively with some of their most chaotic clients. The service was perceived as being particularly successful in sourcing accommodation for women who are generally difficult to house.
Stephen Bediako, from TSIP, said: “The Social Innovation Partnership (TSIP) worked exceptionally closely with the WIRE team during the course of our evaluation. We spent months working from St Giles Trust's offices, developing a thorough understanding of what WIRE's team do and also of their clients - their needs and how they've done since engaging with the WIRE. Preliminary results from our evaluation were certainly encouraging; reconviction rates amongst clients we assessed were as much as halved (for prolific offenders).”
“Overall, stakeholders praised the unique nature of WIRE and its work, and singled out WIRE's hands-on approach as particularly important. We did identify that WIRE needs sufficient resources both for programme and support staff in order to continue delivering on its targeted outcomes.”
Wendy Rowley, who has led the WIRE project at St Giles Trust, said:
“We were taken aback when we started the service on just how needy the women are and the levels of support they require. Many of the clients are getting churned through the criminal justice system on frequent occasions, spending just a few weeks in prison in many cases before being released homeless. For these clients, the success has been reducing the frequency of their offending by addressing some of the issues which support this, such as stable housing and keeping them engaged with services.”
“Most of the women referred to WIRE are trapped in a cycle of severe disadvantage, homelessness and prison. Unaddressed mental health problems and substance misuse drive much of their offending and they are unable to navigate services without intensive support.”
WIRE’s work involves providing practical and emotional support for women immediately after release from prison to keep women supported and engaged. Typically, this involves sourcing ID for the clients so they can access temporary housing, benefits and other support services.
Since its start in April 2010, 342 women have been helped through the small WIRE team of two paid caseworkers and a handful of specially trained volunteers.
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