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Female Offender Strategy

Volume 683: debated on Tuesday 3 November 2020

The female offenders strategy launched two years ago recognises a different approach to female offenders, and we are making good progress. We initially invested £5.1 million in funding to 30 women’s services across England and Wales, and we are currently in the process of allocating a further £2.5 million for this year to improve women’s centres’ financial viability.

There are over 2,200 more women in prison compared with 25 years ago, and 82% have been sentenced for non-violent offences. A second lockdown will hit them hard, so can the Minister confirm what steps are being taken to give women in prison virtual access to their children? How many pregnant women are currently in custody? How many women have been released as part of the early release scheme?

We are very conscious of the impact of lockdown on our female estate, and we will be looking very carefully, as we look at the new framework for the new provisions on Thursday, at how we can in particular protect women in the female estate, recognising the significant mental health issues they face. We are very conscious of the need to ensure family contact, and all our female estate have access to virtual calls. The hon. Member is aware, I hope, of our recent mother and baby unit review in relation to operations to look after pregnant women and women with young children on the estate. That is currently in a consultation phase. We have set out a number of measures, including personalised access and plans to help those across our female estate who are pregnant or who have dependants.