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COMPLETED: WADE. Women and Desistence Engagement : An evaluation of a community-based, conditional caution pilot programme for women in the criminal justice system

Principle Investigator: Sara Morgan, Fiona Maxwell

Start Date: 20th November 2019

End Date: 30th March 2022


Background and study aims

Compared to the previous year, in 2018 there was an overall 8% increase in theft in England and Wales and a 6% increase in crimes involving sharp instruments or knives. In order to tackle this increase in crime, many believe that more needs to be done to address the reasons why people commit crime in the first place, as well as the damage it causes to peoples’ lives. This means working together in the community to offer solutions to those affected by crime, including victims and offenders. When we discussed possible solutions with local service providers, it was felt that a tailored approach is needed for women, as their needs are unique. Women in prison are very likely to be both victims and offenders whilst, in the general population, one in four women are also victims of abuse within the home and more than half the women in prison have experienced domestic abuse themselves. In response, three projects are being piloted in Hampshire and Dorset to address the needs of women affected by crime.


What does the study involve?

To understand how these projects are working, we plan to carry out group interviews with those delivering the pilot intervention projects in the community. This will primarily be to understand how the projects are working. We will also use information gathered from the project staff about the women using the service to understand whether women go on to seek further assistance in the community, what sort of women engage with the project, and what changes for them as a result of using the service. This study proposal was developed in collaboration with public representatives; including offenders, victims, social care workers, domestic abuse service manager, and police officers. They have all shaped the design of the study; by informing us what types of research questions we should be asking. Going forward, we will continue to involve similar representatives throughout the research study; for example, to co-produce the materials used in the study, such as information sheets, and to gain feedback on the write up of the study.


What will we do with the study findings?

It is important that the information gained from the study reaches the widest number of people. We will therefore consider who to engage, and how tompact of COVID-19 pandemic reach them, from the very start of the study. The main findings willbe developed into a short summary report, which will be accessible to the general public through our public representatives and collaborators. They might include charitable organisations in the community (e.g. Stop Domestic Abuse, Hampton Trust) or services that work directly with women affected by crime (e.g. NHS, probation services).


Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The first WaDE cautions were offered from March 2019 and workshops began shortly after. Numbers were initially fewer than expected, and although some variance throughout the year would not have been unusual, there were fewer than the anticipated 10 per month for the first months of the pilot. Unfortunately, from March 2020 the COVID pandemic and stay-at-home regulations had a very significant impact on the operation of the pilot. The pilot was suspended from March as Hampshire Constabulary temporarily ceased offering conditional cautions. From March it was also not possible to deliver the WaDE programme in its intended group format, and a small number of participants who had completed the first workshop as a group completed their second part by telephone on a 1:1 basis with a HT facilitator. As an alternative, a non-mandatory, individual telephone intervention was briefly offered from March 2020 during the first period of restrictions.


Overall this had an impact on the planned evaluation, resulting in a reduction in the available quantitative data for analysis (due to fewer numbers coming through the programme). Additionally, there was a planned qualitative element to the evaluation (focus groups) which were cancelled due to the restrictions.

At the time of writing the intention is for the WaDE caution to be extended to the whole Hampshire Constabulary area from 1 June 2021, which should significantly increase numbers coming through and provide data for further evaluation. Under the extraordinary circumstances brought about by the pandemic, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) has agreed to carry over the underspent budget from the 2019-2020 pilot year to enable WaDE to continue until March 2022.


This interim report focuses on the available data for Cohort A and aims to provide a brief summary of their demographic and baseline data and any outcomes that are available at this stage.


Reoffending

Due to the suspension of the WaDE programme and the extended period between cohort A completing their workshops and the compilation of this report, reoffending data up to 12m post-intervention is now available.


From the initial 27 referrals, 4 women went on to commit further offences. These were:

1 at 35 days (common assault)

1 at 157 days (shoplifting)

1 at 229 days (bladed implement)

1 at 310 days (cannabis)


Two of those who reoffended had breached (not attended) any WaDE workshops, and two had completed. A chi-square comparison of the reoffending rate between those who breached and those who attended gives a χ2 value of 2.1, indicating that this difference does not meet the threshold for statistical significance.


Exit Questionnaires

Hampton Trust routinely ask participants in their programmes to complete an exit questionnaire, which allows for some feedback on the perceived benefits of having attended. It also provides the opportunity for some free text comments. Ten participants answered the following questions:

 

 Q1 Since being on the workshops have you identified areas of your life in which you need support?


  

Q2 Since being on the workshop do you have a better understanding of what led you to offend?


  

Q3 Have the workshops helped give you tools/support to make safer more positive life choices?


  

Q4 Since being on the workshops have you accessed other services (e.g. counselling, drugs and alcohol support) or plan to do so in the near future?

  


Q5 Do you intend to attend all or any of the follow-on 12 week programme workshops?


  

Q6 How much have you enjoyed the WaDE workshop?

  


Q7 In your opinion, how well presented were the workshops?


 

Q8 To what extent have the workshops helped you with your problems?



Q9 Where 10 is ‘very confident’, how confident are you of not offending in future?



On the basis of these responses, the WaDE programme is evidently acceptable to, and valued, by the participants. One respondent was generally negative in her responses and indicated in the free text feedback that she felt she shouldn’t have been having to attend WaDE at all; however even she felt that the course was well presented and enjoyable.


Due to the small number of responses and the limited amount of free text feedback, full thematic analysis of the responses is not likely to offer reliable identification of consistent key themes. However, for the majority of respondents the comments reflected overall high levels of satisfaction with the programme, its delivery and its usefulness in terms of helping the participants to understand and address the factors and circumstances leading to their caution.


Limitations

Overall The WaDE programme delivery, and consequently the size and scope of this evaluation, has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Greater numbers would have added validity to our findings and allowed for meaningful associations to be explored, while qualitative research would have added a depth of understanding of the true impact of the WaDE programme on its participants. At the time of writing it is hoped that WaDE can now revert to its original model and that a steady throughput in line with original expectations on numbers will be observed. Further research is recommended, including a comparative statistical analysis with a larger cohort. Qualitative research would also be valuable to explore in-depth attitudes, towards reoffending for example, in order to provide better evidence for future decision-making.


Conclusions

Despite some very challenging times, the team delivering WaDE remains committed to its ongoing operation. Continuing support from the OPCC and a strong working partnership between Hampton Trust and Hampshire Constabulary has enabled the programme to ‘weather the storm’ of the pandemic and emerge ready to re-start. The flexibility and hard work of each individual throughout this time speaks to their belief in WaDE as a worthwhile and much-valued means of supporting female offenders towards a better future.

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