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Criminal Justice System (Women)

Volume 555: debated on Tuesday 18 December 2012

13. What steps his Department is taking to address vulnerabilities faced by women involved or at risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system. (133878)

The Government are committed to reducing offending and reoffending by women. We have a cross-government programme of work that seeks to address issues associated with offending, such as drugs, alcohol, mental health needs, domestic and sexual violence, accommodation and education.

I thank the Minister for her answer. Alana House in my constituency is a community centre supporting women experiencing problems whose behaviour has shown them to be at risk of offending. It has been particularly successful in providing the courts with a useful alternative to custodial sentences and helps vulnerable women to tackle their problems. The centre is in danger of closing. Will the Minister agree to visit Alana House to see the valuable work that the centre does, and to work with me to help ensure that this valuable community resource remains open?

I know that my hon. Friend cares deeply about Alana House and its future in his Reading constituency. He has already discussed the matter with me on a number of occasions. The National Offender Management Service has funded women’s community facilities successfully for a number of years and Alana House has been provided with funding of £111,000 for 2012-13. From 2013-14, probation trusts will commission these very important services for women. They are required to provide gender-specific services and if those services are not sufficiently robust they will be challenged. It is too early to say what that will mean for Alana House, but I can tell my hon. Friend that I would be happy to visit the facility.

The Corston report highlighted the need for women’s centres to work with women offenders and those at risk of offending. What is the Government’s current policy on continuing to provide support to such services?

As I said, that funding will continue. The National Offender Management Service has funded women’s services very successfully for many years. The funding for women’s services will continue at the same level, but from 2013-14 probation trusts will commission these vital services.

Does the Minister agree that one of the best ways to ensure that women do not enter the criminal justice system is to use restorative justice more imaginatively for out-of-court disposals? Will she give a commitment to examine that in detail, particularly for women offenders?