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.

Annex G: Group-based Support that Worked Well and Challenges

Table 21: Elements of group-based support that 'worked well' and challenges in WCJS setting, identified by practitioners and women

Worked well

Engaging content

Non-threatening and low stress. Activities in which women were active with their hands and had potential to interact positively with others with minimum barriers (e.g. gardening, arts and crafts).

Fostered social connections. Activities that contributed to positive mental health and relationships with others, including other women, workers and wider community.

Fostered achievement. Activities in which women felt a sense of completion or contribution (reflected in women's positive response towards certificates), or felt the activity helped them 'move forward'.

Relevant or meaningful. Activities in which women learnt new knowledge, skills or experiences that they could apply outside WCJS, that moved women towards work, training or a qualification, or that contributed towards others (e.g. in unpaid work groups, charity campaigns).

Interactive and varied content. Women responded positively to groupwork with interactive components, and a variation in activities.

Flexible delivery

Designed to recognise that women will 'dip in and out'. Practitioners adapted content or delivery in response to knowing that some women do not engage consistently (e.g. A health practitioner described informally adapting CBT content (typically taught in structured groupwork) for working with women 'as and when' they showed up.

Rolling groupwork programme. (E.g. women could join within four weeks of getting an order.)

Fluid timescales - women could repeat or take the time they needed complete programmes or phases of support (in voluntary scenario)


Content adapted for high risk/need women. (E.g. Tomorrow's Women Glasgow (TWG) found existing Safe and Sound trauma groupwork unsuited to women with very high risk/needs and developed preparatory groupwork called HOPE. HOPE was less complex, shorter, and appropriate to women's learning difficulties and earlier stage of addressing complex trauma.

External facilitators prepared (E.g. one WCJS informally briefed the external community course facilitator to ensure their approach would best engage women in their WCJS (e.g. active, simple, short content)

'Short-enough' community courses. Practitioners suggested that courses no longer than four weeks were best to support women's engagement and successful completion of courses


Involving women

Women had input into content and environment. Most WCJSs gathered women's input through suggestion boxes, open discussions to plan activities and co-established group ground rules.

Co-production. Multiple WCJSs engaged women in co-facilitation or informal roles within groups. TWG adopted a service-wide co-production model. TWG's new HOPE programme (above) was piloted with women, who were given logbooks to inform its development. This was met with enthusiasm and was considered to become usual practice.


Co-facilitate with non-CJSW agency - a number of WCJSs identified advantages of delivering groupwork alongside non-CJSW professionals (e.g. C&F, Rape Crisis, Addaction) were that it strengthened facilitation, women received a balance and mix of skills, knowledge and approaches, familiarised women (and staff) with another agency, deepened shared ownership of WCJS aims across agencies, and attracted non-CJSW women to achieve critical mass required for groupwork (e.g. in areas with dispersed population)


On-going development

Some activities risked becoming repetitive or stale in drop-ins. New content ideas had to meet budget, practical, and local constraints.

Dedicated time or capacity required to develop groupwork further. Developing groupwork was on-going in most WCJSs.

Critical mass

A minimum number of women (particularly in smaller or rural WCJSs) was required to justify running some groups. Community courses required sufficient numbers of women (who weren't guaranteed to turn up) to run courses internally. Groups require a balance of 'not too few; not too many'.

Tailoring group settings for individuals

Practitioners were considering ideas to reduce barriers for women who were reluctant to engage or found group settings difficult (particularly drop-ins), such as meeting women prior to drop-in, having 'greeters', using alternative rooms or spaces to split large groups. Difficulties identified by women included anxiety of not knowing who will be present in a group or drop-in.


Email: Tamsyn Wilson

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