Justice and Safety

Supporting Women Who Offend: The Role of Community Services

September 4, 2015 by No Comments | Category Justice

Evaluation of  Sixteen Women’s Community Justice Services

Between 2013 and 2015 the government provided funding to 16 projects across Scotland to provide community services for women who offend. The funding both established new services and developed existing projects, each tailored to the local area where they were based.

Our evaluation published this week shows that Women’s Community Justice Services (WCJS) provide an enhanced service to traditional approaches to supervising women in the community.

Women’s Community Justice Services were found to be:

Most effective in helping women to stabilise their lives by addressing practical needs, building their confidence and motivating women to change their lives.

Less effective in engaging women in ‘purposeful activities’ such as employment, volunteering and training.  One explanation is that these are longer term goals which may only be achieved once a women’s circumstances are stable, and she has developed confidence and life-skills (e.g. communication and problem-solving skills).

The evaluation looked at three core types of services:
– Women’s centres situated in large cities
– Women’s teams based mostly in urban areas
– Community hubs in rural areas

All of these services either co-locate or link with various partners and agencies which provide practical and emotional support to women on a one-to-one basis, in group work and/or drop-in sessions.  Core features of the services include women-only ‘safe’ spaces, distinct women’s teams and/or key workers, and a holistic, relational and strengths-based approach.

The findings provide a strong rationale for the WCJS approach, not as a single prescribed model but rather as locally-grown services that adopt a holistic, gender-specific, and flexible approach to supporting women who offend.


The WCJS were evaluated by the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (IRISS) during 2014-15.  The evaluation aimed to examine how WCJS work in practice and to what extent they contributed towards positive outcomes (associated with reduced reoffending) for women who offend.

To view the full report and research summary, please go to:

Full report

Research Findings

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