‘Worst year ever’ for women’s centre funding, says industry chiefPosted: June 24, 2015
Women’s services suffering from cuts and staff leaving
Funding for organisations working with women in the criminal justice system is under serious threat, according to the head of the industry body.
Changes to the probation service and continued austerity and cuts have hit women’s centres particularly badly, said Jackie Russell, speaking on Tuesday at the Women’s Breakout AGM.
Women’s Breakout, of which Russell is the director, is an umbrella organisation representing 56 projects nationwide that work with women offenders and women at risk of offending. Women can attend the centres as a part of a community sentence or during their probation after release from prison.
Ms Russell said: “This year, 2015-16, was the worst year ever for what our projects were told they were going to get for probation services.”
Previously, women’s centres were financed through fundraising and commissions from the probation service. In February the government completed its privatisation of 70 per cent of the probation service, under the Transforming Rehabilitation programme. It transferred the management of low and medium risk offenders from the former publicly-run probation service to the new private Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs).
Now the commissions will now come from the CRCs. But the centres have not yet been told exactly when the funding will come and how much it will be. Whereas Women’s Centres currently budget £1,500 – £2,000 for a holistic programme for one woman, Russell is concerned the CRCs have budgeted as little as £200 – £300 a woman.
The uncertainty of funding is already threatening the future of the centres. Ms Russell said that some of the member organisations had lost staff, who applied to more secure jobs elsewhere, including at the CRCs. A small number of projects have even had to close down.
Ms Russell said the cause for biggest concern was the lack of plan or model across the board for women-specific services. “Underlying it all is: there is no model. I find it hard to understand how the Ministry of Justice can be satisfied with that, when what we’re seeing is actually a complete lack of transparency about what is going to happen with women under the Transforming Rehabilitation process.
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