Evaluation of Sixteen Women's Community Justice Services in Scotland

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.

11 Conclusions

11.1 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 help women to address their immediate practical and emotional needs. As previous studies suggest, unless issues that underlie offending behaviour are addressed, it is unlikely that community sanctions or supervision alone will reduce reoffending.[xi]

11.2 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'. It also required CJSW departments, partner agencies, and practitioners to be open to adopting new and flexible ways of working.

11.3 A key role of WCJSs was supporting women to engage with other services (including universal services). This was achieved by both working across organisational boundaries (e.g. co-located multi-disciplinary professionals, direct referrals) and helping women to improve their confidence, 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 attendance).

11.4 The evaluation identified potential gaps in service provision that may be considered in future initiatives. Opportunities include developing more purposeful or rewarding activities for women (at an earlier stage) and forging women's links in the community, helping women to cope with the loss of children (into care) and support them in regaining or maintaining custody (where appropriate), and support for women leaving short-term prison sentences (throughcare).

11.5 Practitioners' main aspirations for the future of WCJSs included the on-going aim to build services' reputation and credibility, evidence their effectiveness, and ensure sustainability. Findings also indicated the practical limits upon WCJSs' capacity given the unpredictable and resource-intense nature of female caseloads 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.

11.6 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.


Email: Tamsyn Wilson

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