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Police and Crime commissioner to open new facility to avert women away from offending

16 July, 2015

Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner is set to open a new facility in Preston helping women to break the cycle of offending.

The early action Avert project, which was launched by Lancashire Police and Lancashire Women’s Centres, proved to be so successful in the East of the county, where it was piloted, that it is now being rolled out across Lancashire.

The programme, which has been given £200,000 from the Police Innovation Fund following a successful bid to the Home Office by the Commissioner, was so successful in its first six months, that 93 per cent of its participants did not going on to reoffend.

The latest centre will be opened in Fishergate Hill, Preston, by Clive Grunshaw at a ceremony on Monday (July 20).

The Commissioner said: “In my Police and Crime Plan, I made tackling crime and reoffending and supporting vulnerable people key priorities. I’m delighted to say that Lancashire Women’s Centres are doing an incredible job in helping me work towards these aims.

“When the Avert project was launched in the East of the county in November 2013, I recognised how unique the scheme was – providing early intervention and diverting women away from custody, rather than trying to pick up the pieces once they had been prosecuted and processed through the system.

“The success of the programme has been phenomenal and I am delighted to be opening the Preston Centre.”

The Avert programme, which began in Blackburn and Darwen and expanded to include Accrington and the surrounding areas before being rolled out county-wide, provides a wraparound service for both low-level and persistent female offenders. The most common offences are drunk and disorderly, shoplifting and assault. The programme provides a different route into support services for women who would not have accessed help available, but to be suitable, they must admit the offence.

Support workers recognise that often, women who come into contact with the criminal justice service need extra help – on top of many other issues, research shows that women prisoners are far more likely than men to be the primary carers for children, making contact with the criminal justice system a significantly different experience for them.

A ‘triage’ support system within the custody setting is provided, identifying the underlying issues that led to them being arrested. The women must then attend three mandatory appointments, where they receive continuous and consistent contact to help them make positive changes in their lives.

Mr Grunshaw added: “The cost of putting women through Avert is significantly cheaper than continuing to arrest them and put them through the criminal justice system.

“But that is not the main reason for the expansion of this scheme. The early intervention makes such a positive impact to the lives of these women, who could have gone on through the ‘revolving door’ of offending and reoffending, but have instead turned their lives around, that it makes perfect sense to offer the programme throughout Lancashire.”

Sarah Swindley, CEO for Lancashire and Cumbria Women’s Centres, said: “Avert allows us to integrate women back into society and to help them manage everyday struggles in a more positive way.

“The project offers women a second chance to remove themselves from what had become, for some, a cycle of offending.

“We would like to thank Mr Grunshaw for his support and look forward to continuing the success of the pilot in East Lancashire across the whole of the county.”

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