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.

Holistic support for women

WCJSs provided or coordinated practical and emotional support to women on a one-to-one basis, in group work and/or drop-in sessions. Support was underpinned by trusting relationships between women and their worker(s). Women worked with their key worker to prioritise support tailored to their needs and circumstances.

Women most typically received support to stabilise their lives, link into appropriate services, and address practical issues (e.g. secure stable housing, stabilise or reduce substance misuse, develop skills to solve everyday problems, and build confidence and positive mental health).

The co-location or links with multi-disciplinary professionals in many WCJSs enabled women to access practical support for multiple issues in one place. Workers in multi-disciplinary women's teams or centres felt they were better equipped and had greater flexibility to respond to women's complex needs at the right time compared to working with women infrequently and/or without multi-disciplinary support previously. This response worked best when WCJSs had formal arrangements with partner agencies (e.g. to make direct referrals, access expertise, and share client information) rather than relying on informal networks.

Other features of WCJSs that women and/or practitioners commonly identified as being important were:

  • Women-only premises located near women's communities, and based outside CJSW premises where possible
  • An informal, safe environment, that enables women to build supportive relationships and connect with workers and other women in a way that many had not experienced in previous services or through supervision alone
  • Practitioners with qualities valued by women, such as being willing to listen, non-judgemental, optimistic about women's potential for change, and available for emotional support
  • Practical help to overcome barriers to accessing services often experienced by women with complex needs (e.g. flexible appointments and follow-up in contrast to mainstream services where individuals may be 'taken off the books' after a series of missed appointments).
  • Sequenced support, which prioritises stability, readiness to change and immediate needs, before progressing to longer term outcomes
  • A distinct women's 'team' or worker
  • An 'open door' for women to return for further help if they need reassurance or a 'safety net' on exit
  • A relational, strengths-based approach to working with women that treats women as individuals first rather than 'offenders'.


Email: Tamsyn Wilson

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