A Call to Action evidences that, with specialist early interventions and ongoing support, there is the opportunity to end a cycle of harm and change the trajectory of a young woman’s life.
We know that many women arrive to prison due to lack of support around multiple, intersecting needs, such as experience of sexual or domestic abuse, poverty, substance use and mental health needs. This is particularly true for girls and young women, yet they are systematically overlooked in policy and practice.
As part of the Youth to Adult project, Advance provide an age-, gender-, and trauma-responsive approach to young women on probation at their East London women’s centre. Using their Minerva model, they take a holistic view of young women’s needs, offering consistent support through key-workers, groups, and activities in a womens-only safe space.
Young women can attend their probation appointments at the women’s centre and access wrap-around support from Advance for up to 12 to 18 months, meaning keywork support often extends beyond the length of their probation process. The partnership between Advance and Probation means young women can access their probation appointments in a gender-informed environment and receive holistic support from both agencies.
We began by discussing the importance of offering support in a women’s only space. Loishana reflected: “I felt more open with Zoe and my probation officer because it was solely based around women. I feel like if there had been men there, I wouldn’t have been able to open up or confide in them about things.”
Zoe agreed: “If it was a mixed-gender place, it just wouldn’t work, it would make women not feel safe. Especially if you’ve experienced domestic violence and you don’t trust men and then you come into a space to talk about your experiences and a man is sitting opposite you.”
L - “I feel the space really helped… It’s such a calming atmosphere. There were times were I’d be very stressed and I’d come in and … I completely just broke down, and I told her everything. I must have really trusted my emotions with Zoe.
Z – “It shows when you do feel safe around someone, you can let yourself be vulnerable and open to things – it opened up her eyes to what was going on in her life… Then it’s like, ‘Ok, what can we do to help you, what’s our next steps to help you get the best out of this?’”
This trust opened up space for Zoe to help Loishana with other factors in her life, outside of her contact with probation. Zoe was able to offer specialist support, facilitating Loishana to navigate multiple different public services.