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Women’s Pathfinder

The Women’s Pathfinder initiative was established in 2013, led by HMPPS in Wales and the four Police and Crime Commissioners and Police Forces in Wales, with support from Welsh Government and a wide range of other partners, including female-focused third sector agencies including Newport Women’s Aid, Safer Wales, North Wales Women’s Centre, Include and Gwalia.

The Women’s Pathfinder was launched in response to the Justice Select Committee Inquiry into Women Offenders and its examination of progress made against the recommendations outlined in the Baroness Corston Report of a Review of Women with Particular Vulnerabilities in the Criminal Justice System (published in 2007). It was concluded more needed to be done to bring about improvements for women in the Criminal Justice System. As such, the Women’s Pathfinder programme was set up with the aim of improving outcomes relating to women coming into contact with the Criminal Justice System in Wales. This work resulted in women being included as a priority group in the Wales Reducing Re-offending Strategy 2014-16 and they continue to be a priority for the HMPPS in Wales and Welsh Government joint ‘Framework to support positive change for those at risk of offending in Wales 2018-2023’.  

The aim of the Women’s Pathfinder is to reduce offending and reoffending by women in Wales by:  

‘Enabling women and children in Wales to have opportunities which enable them to live positive, independent, healthy lives’.

Since its launch, the Women’s Pathfinder Programme has made significant progress in building the evidence base and implementing good practice for working with women in Wales who come into contact with the Criminal Justice System. This has included development of a specific accommodation pathway and a review of sentencing trends with a particular focus on the use of short term imprisonment. This programme of work has informed UK, Wales and local practice and policy developments and has established effective governance arrangements that have supported Wales to become a leading area of good practice in this field. There is commitment to improve outcomes through early intervention and coordinating the necessary intervention in order to support long lasting change and to build resilience. Working in partnership to take this agenda forward has enabled elements of a Whole System Approach to be tested across Wales. 

The Women’s Pathfinder Whole System Approach brings together local agencies in the criminal justice system and statutory and third sectors to develop a multi agency approach to address the complex needs of women in Wales. It supports women to access provisions successfully, including support with housing, accommodation and education so that they can turn their lives and their children’s lives around. For many of these women access to support had not been offered previously and they were subsequently caught in a vicious cycle. Through the Women’s Pathfinder they are supported throughout their journey by dedicated empathetic staff across a range of organisations whose approach is tailored to the women themselves. The work of the Women’s Pathfinder has been recognised nationally as an example of good practice and there is growing support from across the UK, in Wales and at a more local level for this work to be implemented more broadly.

The following quotes are examples of some of the things women have said about the Women’s Pathfinder:

It’s changed my whole way of thinking in regards to the family and the problems I face daily.
I’ve come to Pathfinders, I’ve realized that there is help out there for me, and I’ve managed now to sort out my debts…They haven’t judged me in any way, I feel more confident. 
I’m a very bubbly person but since this incident I’ve lost all my confidence and I’m feeling really low, where when I can come here I can talk. They listen, they help, they give me advice. Brilliant service.

What is a Whole System Approach?

The Whole System Approach provides a coordinated multi-agency approach in supporting women across the Criminal Justice System. The approach is about using existing systems differently, avoiding gaps or duplication and providing more targeted support from start to finish.

Features of the Women’s Pathfinder Whole System Approach model include: 

  • Single route into local community support services from the earliest possible stage, for example, at point of arrest
  • The Diversion Scheme, which aims to divert women away from crime and into community based support and interventions to help address their problems
  • Co-location of dedicated staff from statutory services including NPS and the Wales CRC with third sector, women centred/ domestic abuse service providers
  • Multi agency case conference meetings, where organisations can come together and work in a holistic way
  • An evidence based women-focussed approach

Achievements of the Women’s Pathfinder to date

    • The Whole System Approach model is now operational in five pilot sites across Wales and covers all four Police force areas (Cardiff, Newport, Cwm Taf, Pembrokeshire and Conwy/Denbighshire)
    • To date, over 1400 women have been successfully diverted away from the criminal justice system across Wales since the start of the first Diversion Scheme pilot in Cardiff in July 2014 
    • A formal evaluation of the Women’s Pathfinder Diversion Scheme was undertaken by the University of South Wales which evidenced a 26% reduction in re-offending and found that the overall re-arrest rate in the pilot sites was around half that in the comparison sites (17.8% compared with 35%) 
    • Across all the Women's Pathfinder pilot sites in Wales there are around 600 women engaged at any one time on an ongoing basis, including Diversion Scheme cases, statutory NPS and CRC cases and voluntary referrals
    • Building Welsh evidence base through Female Offenders Crime, Re-offending and Needs Analysis; identification of female offenders who are victims of domestic violence; and MOJ funding has been secured to deliver research investigating sentencing trends for women 
    • Support for accommodation for women leaving prison specifically provided through a Welsh Government and HMPPS jointly funded Accommodation Pathway Officer role

Going forward the Women’s Pathfinder is working with South Wales PCC, Gwent PCC, HMPPS in Wales and Welsh Government to roll out the Whole System Approach Service Delivery Model across South Wales and Gwent. Alongside implementing this approach across the Southern Wales area, the Women’s Pathfinder will be developing mechanisms to share learning across Wales and will create opportunities for collaboration on wider strands of work that will ensure Welsh women are supported to live crime free, positive and healthy lives.

Contact Us:

Email: Womens.pathfinder@justice.gov.uk