Project will Avert cycle of reoffending

Professor David Wilson with Sarah Swindley of  Lancashire Women's Centres, winner in the women category.Picture: Prisonimage.org.
Professor David Wilson with Sarah Swindley of Lancashire Women's Centres, winner in the women category.Picture: Prisonimage.org.

A project aimed at helping women break the cycle of offending has been recognised at a national awards ceremony.

The early action Avert initiative, which was launched by Lancashire Constabulary and Lancashire Women’s Centres, won the women offenders category of the Howard League for Penal Reform Community Programme Awards 2015. They were presented with the award at a ceremony in London.

Avert was originally launched in the east of the county but, due to its success, has since been rolled out across Lancashire.

It provides a wraparound service for both low-level and persistent female offenders. The most common offences are drunk and disorderly, shoplifting and assault.

During its first six months of operation, 93 per cent of participants did not go on to reoffend.

Det Insp Jo Keay said: “Winning the award pays tribute to the fantastic partnership working which has been pivotal to making Avert such a success.

“The program highlights that targeting bespoke unmet need can really have an impact in terms of reducing crime and reoffending but also on the lives of the clients involved.”

Sarah Swindley, Chief Executive Officer of Lancashire Women’s Centres said: “Lancashire Women’s Centres are extremely proud to receive this prestigious award.

“The Howard League for Penal Reform advocate for a criminal justice system that promotes rehabilitation and focuses on the underlying causes of offending and therefore to reduce the number of victims. It is fantastic that Avert has been recognised as being an example of excellent practice in the area of women’s services. This is a true example of partnership work and LWC have worked with Lancashire Constabulary to co-produce an extremely effective project.”

The programme has been given £200,000 from the Police Innovation Fund following a successful bid to the Home Office by Clive Grunshaw, Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire.

The Commissioner, who recently opened Lancashire Women’s Centre’s newest facility in Preston, said: “I’d firstly like to congratulate all of those involved in the Avert scheme for its outstanding success. Tackling crime and reoffending is one of my key priorities in my Police and Crime plan and this project is clearly helping to achieve that.

“When the Avert project was launched in the East of the county in November 2013, I recognised how unique the scheme was - providing early intervention and diverting women away from custody, rather than trying to pick up the pieces once they had been prosecuted and processed through the system. This not only reduces demand on the police but helps change participants’ lives for the better.

“The success of the programme has been phenomenal and this award recognises that on a national scale.”