CGM CRC has launched its first women’s centres in Cheshire.
The Runcorn women’s centre opened its doors in August and is used by up to 25 women a week who take part in a range of activities aimed at supporting their rehabilitation. A centre has also been launched in Widnes, which opened a fortnight ago.
Greater Manchester is served by excellent women’s centres that are run by the CRC in conjunction with a wide range of partnership agencies. The provision for female offenders is nationally recognised as an area of best practice.
Rolling out similar provision in Cheshire has been frustrated by the problems associated with opening centres in smaller communities and trying to find the right mix of partner agencies to provide the right range of services.
Sarah Holmes, Interchange Manager, is based in the CRC’s Runcorn office. She worked with probation case manager Gemma Bailey to launch the Runcorn Women’s Centre, which is a partnership with the Halton Women’s Centre and is based in Castlefields.
The Runcorn centre opens every Wednesday morning and offers a holistic, wrap-around service for women supervised by CGM CRC.
Gemma is the lead for women offenders in Runcorn and has a caseload of 63 females. Other staff hold 20 female cases between them.
She said: “It’s fantastic to finally be running a successful women’s centre. The dynamic is so positive here in Runcorn, we have already seen that attendance and compliance have risen and that our service users are thriving in this environment.
“It has been recognised for some time that it’s tough for women to attend generic probation offices where there are a lot of male offenders in reception and where the environment is often not conducive for starting the conversations that need to take place to address what can be extremely difficult and personal issues.
“Women feel more relaxed in a female-only environment, more able to speak about what’s on their mind and to engage with us.”
Gemma and senior case manager Rebecca Rawles make appointments for service users in the morning, carry out group inductions with the support of volunteer Darcie Gregory after that and in the afternoon run WISER, a group programme aimed at supporting women to make positive change.
Sarah said: “Evidence shows women thrive with the type of provision recommended by the Baroness Corston report, the type of provision on offer in Greater Manchester and Merseyside.
“For a variety of reasons, it has been a tough slog establishing provision in Cheshire that is on a par with that. It’s partly to do with geography and the type of support which already exists here in Cheshire, but we are now showing that it is possible to launch a dedicated women’s service.”
The centre receives input from housing support, Jobcentre Plus, substance misuse agencies and domestic abuse support charities – among others.