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Support, Encourage, Enable

International Women's Day 2017

"Corston 10 Years on – what's changed for Lancashire and Cumbria?"

10 years ago, following a high number of deaths in HMP Styal, Baroness Jean Corston published her seminal report into women in custody. This highlighted the vulnerability and complexity of women in prison and in the wider criminal justice system and made 43 recommendations. It's still relevant, still well worth a read.

Following this report, a significant national funding commitment was made and a couple of years later, a small Womens centre in East Lancashire started to work more closely with women who were referred by the Probation service ( as was, but that's another story..)

What a journey we have been on since then.  

 We now run one stop shop services in 6 towns in Lancashire and through partners across Cumbria. It's an old but simple model. Look at all the things that a women needs on her journey from vulnerability to employment, education, training or just happiness and hope.

Bring those services together under one roof, with no-one lost between the cracks. Add volunteers, sharing each other's journeys – and magical things can happen.

So yes we've come a long way, but there is always more to do. 

I travelled to London today with Rebecca Rawlings who runs Women’s Community Matters in Barrow. We reflected on the great things that have been achieved in the North West – Lancashire and Cumbria is one of the few areas where services have continued to  expand and develop under Transforming Rehabilitation – but that sometimes it feels like we are fighting an ever increasing tide of vulnerability and desperation. Prevention and diversionary services are hard to sustain, show good positive outcomes when in ‘pilot’ form but struggle to be mainstreamed in ‘business as usual.’ 

We are also aware we are now working with the daughters of some of the women Baroness Corston interviewed when she first visited Styal. For them, little has changed. Barrow is still as far from the Cheshire prison and a woman living in Blackpool will still need her family to travel for 2 hours if she is to see her children whilst she's inside. Women are still being imprisoned for violent resistance to years of abuse and still losing their children and house whilst on remand for shoplifting.

So on International Women’s Day 2017, we can celebrate how far the North West has come, but be mindful of the journey still ahead.

Rebecca and I took a strange selfie  infront of the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst before our afternoon tea at the House of Lords. A world away from the lives of women in Lancashire and Cumbria.

As Ms Pankhurst said, 

‘Justice and Judgement lie often a world apart.’

- Sarah Swindley, CEO of Lancashire Women's Centres.

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