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.

Outcomes for women

Outcomes reported here were observed during a limited timeframe (an average of five months); long-term changes will take more time to materialise. Progress was assessed for 406 women against 14 outcomes, which included short-, medium- and long-term outcomes linked to desistance.

Overall, the majority of women experienced improvements in at least one outcome (83%) and on average made progress in four of the 14 measures. WCJSs were most effective in areas that help stabilise women's lives and promote their readiness to change (e.g. problem solving and engagement); factors that are critical for making progress elsewhere. Women tended to make most progress in short-term outcomes, including problem solving, engagement with services, willingness to work on problems, emotional and mental health, housing and substance misuse.

Women attributed this positive change in their lives to a combination of factors. Progress tended to occur when women were stable (e.g. in safe and secure housing, had stabilised substance misuse), felt motivated to change, felt supported or encouraged by workers or a person they trusted, and had opportunities or access to support at the appropriate time. This underlines the importance of properly sequenced holistic support and the often-described 'softer' outcomes that support women to make and sustain changes in their lives.

Less progress was shown in addressing other (longer-term) outcomes, including women having purposeful and rewarding activities (e.g. ways to spend their time, or in work, volunteering or training); stable and/or positive family relationships; and consistent views that offending is unacceptable (albeit that such views were held by a small proportion of women). WCJSs were less likely to address some of these needs directly within short timescales. Women's progress was not always linear and some women experienced setbacks or no change.

These findings highlight the importance of having realistic expectations for individuals with complex needs and recognising the gradual and long-term nature of change for some women. The role of broader social structures or other factors in the community (out-with the control of WCJSs, (e.g. stigma and employment opportunities) also influence women's progress.


Email: Tamsyn Wilson

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