Evaluation of Sixteen Women's Community Justice Services in Scotland - Research Findings

This document presents the findings of an evaluation of sixteen women’s community justice services in Scotland. The evaluation was conducted by the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (IRISS) during 2014-15.


The findings suggest that the extended provision of community services supported women to make observable progress towards outcomes associated with desistance during the limited timeframes in which WCJSs were evaluated. WCJSs were most effective in helping women to stabilise their lives, promote their confidence and motivation to change, and address their immediate practical and emotional needs.

The holistic approach of WCJSs offered a genuinely enhanced service alternative to traditional CJSW supervision for women. This was made possible by practitioners working with women as individuals with strengths, needs, and aspirations, rather than focusing on women as 'offenders'.

A key role of WCJSs was supporting women to engage with other (mainstream) services. This was achieved by both multidisciplinary working (e.g. co-located professionals, direct referrals), and helping women to improve their self-esteem, communication and self-presentation skills, to enable them to access services independently. This in turn can benefit external agencies (e.g. more efficient referrals and improved attendance at appointments).

The evaluation identified potential gaps in service provision that may be considered in future initiatives. These gaps include developing more purposeful or rewarding activities (at an earlier stage) and forging women's links in the community (i.e. social capital), helping women to cope with the loss of children (into care) and support them in regaining or maintaining custody (where appropriate), and continuing to develop diversion and (voluntary) throughcare services.

Practitioners' main aspirations for the future of WCJSs included an ongoing aim of buildingto build the services' reputation and credibility with sentencers, evidence their effectiveness on long-term outcomes, and ensure sustainability. Findings also indicated the WCJSs' limited capacity (particularly in small or single-worker services) given the unpredictable and the resource-intensive needs of their clients and flexible service delivery. It may be necessary to consider the potential for developing national standards to ensure women receive a consistent quality of service wherever they live in Scotland.

Overall, the findings provide a strong rationale to continue the WCJS approach, not as a single prescribed 'model', but rather as locally defined services that adopt holistic, gender-responsive, and flexible practices. The findings add to the growing evidence that such approaches can effect positive change in areas of women's lives that are known to support desistance.

How to access background or source data

The data collected for this social research publication:

☐ are available in more detail through Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics

☐ are available via an alternative route <specify or delete this text>

☒ may be made available on request, subject to consideration of legal and ethical factors. Please contact Tamsyn.wilson@scotland.gsi.gov.uk for further information.

☐ cannot be made available by Scottish Government for further analysis as Scottish Government is not the data controller.


Email: Tamsyn Wilson

Back to top