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Women entering Custody

Volume 661: debated on Wednesday 12 June 2019

8. What steps she is taking with Cabinet colleagues to provide a co-ordinated approach to supporting women at risk of entering custody. (911301)

Last summer, our female offender strategy set out priorities for supporting women at risk of entering the criminal justice system. As part of that strategy, we will be publishing a national concordat shortly, setting out how public services should co-operate to protect these vulnerable women.

The number of prison officers leaving within a year of starting their role has risen dramatically since 2010, so what are the Government doing to ensure that prisons have experienced staff to assist female prisoners, who often have complex needs, and what steps are the Government taking to support women’s centres, which play a huge role in preventing vulnerable women from entering the criminal justice system?

That is two questions for the price of one, which I will seek to answer. As the hon. Gentleman will know, we are recruiting significant numbers of prison officers—over 2,000 more—but also significantly increasing our spending on women’s centres to make sure that every police and crime commissioner area has a centre.

As a welcome reform of probation services is ongoing, now is the time to look at how we can improve delivery of these services. Will the Minister commit to looking at making specialist gendered support such as women’s centres, female drug rehabilitation clinics and women’s refuges mandatory as part of the probation services across the country?

The hon. Lady makes an important point. We know that women leaving prison have a range of quite distinct needs: they have higher reoffending rates than men, 39% go into unsettled accommodation, and a third are not on out-of-work benefits a month after leaving prison. There is a wide range of issues that we need to look at, and we will take the hon. Lady’s point seriously on board.