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Barrow Cadbury Trust is very pleased to be part of the funders collaboration – The Corston Independent Funders’ Coalition (CIFC) – which has recently submitted its response to a consultation on Imposition of community and custodial sentences guidelines.

The CIFC believes that all women should have access to justice in the criminal justice system – women already involved in the system as well as those at risk – and that women’s specific needs must be met:

  • at each point of contact with the criminal justice system, as opposed to being shoe-horned into a system that does not account for their specific gendered needs
  • through trauma responsive ways of working which address the underlying vulnerabilities and disadvantages that the vast majority of women in the criminal justice system experience, as
    well as nurturing their strengths.

In line with Baroness Corston’s vision set out in the Corston Report, the CIFC seeks to enable systemic change in how women experience the justice system including through supporting women-centred, holistic, and trauma-responsive approaches to divert them away from crime. Much of the way the member organisations fund, and work more widely, therefore is shaped by systems thinking. The group understands that the issues it is seeking to address are complex, that causes and consequences are interconnected, and that the power to create change is spread across the system. This work therefore requires partnering, collaboration and co-production with all actors, particularly those with lived experience of the criminal justice system, to find solutions that will alter the underlying structures and supporting mechanisms which make the system operate in a particular way. And it is this commitment and approach that it brings to the table.

The CIFC is a diverse group of funders with different charitable objectives, interests, and institutional frameworks. Opportunities for members to engage are structured around the three ways in which the Coalition seeks to make a difference – networking and sharing information and learning about policy, practice and grant-making, collaborative funding, and influencing policy and practice.

Hibiscus InitiativesAgenda: the Alliance for women and girls at riskMuslim Women In PrisonZahid Mubarek Trust and Women In Prison, and Criminal Justice Alliance have developed a 10-point action plan for change to improve outcomes and reduce inequalities and discrimination against Black, Asian, minoritised and migrant women in contact with the criminal justice system.

The 10-point action plan, developed through consultation with women with lived experience as well as government officials and specialist organisations, provides clear steps that are needed to make a real difference in the lives of the most marginalised women in our community.

Read the action plan.

Too-often ignored, women face the ‘double disadvantage’ of gender inequality and racism when they encounter the criminal justice system. This stops them from getting the support they need both within the system and when they try to rebuild their lives outside, leaving them at risk of reoffending.

Women’s experiences of violence and abuse can drive them into the criminal justice system, with many serving short sentences for non-violent offences. Many face further abuse and vulnerability as they experience the ‘ripple effects’ of criminal justice involvement like worsening mental health, isolation, and poverty. For Black, Asian, minoritised and migrant women these experiences can be compounded by racism and discrimination. In many cases women can face additional disadvantage in the form of faith inequalities when they encounter the criminal justice system.

Read the action plan.

The government must urgently follow through with their commitment to addressing gender and racial inequalities for Black, Asian, minoritised and migrant women. By working together across political parties, specialist organisations and alongside women with lived experience in the criminal justice system, we can create real change and ensure some of the most marginalised women are no longer overlooked.

The 2017 Women on the Move Awards, presented by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and Migrants Organise, recognised two exceptional refugees for their outstanding work to empower women.  The awards were presented on 10th March at London’s Southbank’s WOW – Women of the World Festival for International Women’s Day.

Young Woman of the Year award was given to 19 year-old Rozin Hanjool, whose family are part of the Yazidi minority group from northern Iraq. After attacks from extremist militants, they fled to the UK in 2007 when Rozin was just ten years-old.  Is 2015, while still finishing her A-levels in Coventry, Rozin started an online petition appealing to the UK Government to support and protect abducted and enslaved Yazidi girls.  Within 24 hours, the petition gathered 25,000 signatures and two years on it has now amassed over 260,000 signatures.  Rozin is determined to bring the petition back to the UK government and secure a commitment to extend urgent assistance to Yazidi girls in Iraq.  She studies law and human rights at university and campaigns actively in her free time.

Eden Habtemichael, a prominent journalist who escaped from Eritrea, was awarded Woman of the Year 2017 in recognition of her ground-breaking work to support asylum seekers and refugees in Oxfordshire. She fled to the UK in 2001 as a single mother with her two year-old daughter and applied for asylum.  Alone and scared, at one point she became homeless and destitute.  Once granted refugee status, she resolved to help other women and children in the asylum system. Eden has since worked tirelessly to find families in Oxford with spare rooms willing to host a refugee so that no one has to face destitution like her and her daughter.  Two teenage boys she found sleeping rough after arriving from Calais are now heading to university after getting A*s in their A-levels, thanks to Eden’s work in helping them find a family.

The Women on the Move Awards also recognised former child refugee Lord Dubs as Champion of the Year for his amendment to the Immigration Act of 2016 which compelled the UK government to resettle and support unaccompanied refugee children from other countries in Europe.  He continues to fight for the implementation of the provision.  The Sue Lloyd-Roberts Media Award went to Christina Lamb, Senior Foreign Correspondent for the Sunday Times, for her reporting on the refugee crisis in 2016.

Find out more about the event.

Fawcett Society’s Ava Lee blogs about how vulnerable women are disproportionately affected by recent benefit changes and what can be done about it  


“I don’t want to go to the Job Centre anymore. I’ve got bad blood pressure, and I don’t want to accept this pressure from them. These people are pushing you, pushing you, and in the end I feel like I am in dessert. There is no job, and I can’t take it….”
Nadya, a single mother from Sheffield.


Recently the Fawcett Society launched our new report: Where’s the Benefit? An Independent Inquiry into Women and Jobseeker’s Allowance.   The report was a culmination of months of work examining how changes made to the benefits system specifically Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), have impacted on women. The results were very concerning.   We found that the benefits system concerned with job seeking is making some groups of vulnerable women even more likely to experience poverty, ill-health, exploitation and abuse. Lone parents, women who suffer violence at home and women who have difficulties with English are being particularly hard hit.   We also found evidence of failings in both the design and the implementation of the JSA system. For example, although special arrangements should be made to protect claimants who are experiencing violence from a partner, claimants are not routinely told that this is possible. Lone parents, nine out of ten of whom are women, are often expected to look for full time work involving up to three hours travel every day even when this makes it impossible for them to also look after their children.


“Barbara called the Helpline in distress…the Work Programme Adviser gave her an appointment at 9.30am [but] she needed to travel on 2 buses [to take] her daughter to school. The Adviser told her to get her child into after school care even though the local service is full and also said it was alright to leave her for a couple of hours on her own.”
Submission from One Parent Families Scotland.


Some women are being expected to meet near impossible conditions in order to receive a basic benefit. When those conditions aren’t met these women are sanctioned, often losing all of their benefits – sometimes repeatedly – as the result of a system that doesn’t take account of the specific circumstances of many women’s lives.


“I think we’re a much easier target to be sanctioned, because, as women, we are less likely to kick off and be violent, much, much less likely, and I think that’s what makes us easier targets. And 99% of the time we’ve got children hanging off us so we haven’t got time to be arguing with these people, so you are having to take it and think, I’ll deal with that later, or I’ll deal with that tomorrow.”
Focus group participant.


We examined a vast amount of evidence including research that other people had written, undertook focus groups up and down the country, one to one interviews and had a day of evidence where we heard from women affected by the changes as well as NGOs, academics and expert practitioners who told us just what was happening.   An expert panel reviewed all the evidence before making recommendations, including Amanda Ariss – the CEO of the Equality and Diversity Forum who was the chair, Carlene Firmin MBE –  Head of the MsUnderstood Partnership and Research Fellow at the University of Bedfordshire, Baroness Meacher, Sir Keir Starmer QC and journalist Rosamund Urwin. The panel reviewed the evidence and attended the live hearing making recommendations for the final report.


The Inquiry made 12 recommendations including:


  • Specialist advisers should be available to support claimants such as lone parents, women experiencing domestic and sexual violence and women with difficulties speaking and understanding English. These advisers could ensure that the policies already in place to protect vulnerable women are followed in practice.


  • The conditions demanded of claimants should take account of the impact of caring responsibilities, language barriers and the impact of domestic and sexual violence.


  • Claimants should be told about policies which are there for lone parents and people experiencing domestic or sexual violence.


  • All claimants should receive a thorough diagnostic interview after three months of claiming JSA, to ensure they are receiving the support they need to move into sustainable, quality employment and are not being required to take up activities, at a cost to the public purse, that make little or no contribution to their job search.


Inquiry Chair Amanda Ariss said: “It is deeply worrying that a benefit that exists to support us all if we find ourselves out of work is putting vulnerable groups of women and their children at risk of unnecessary financial hardship, mental and physical ill-health and, in extreme cases, exploitation and abuse. This makes no sense.   These women are not being provided with the support they need to move into work, which would benefit the women themselves, their families and the wider economy. Instead they are forced to meet conditions that are sometimes close to impossible, with the constant threat of sanctions should they slip up.   It doesn’t have to be this way. With some modest changes to the design and implementation of JSA we could have a system that supports women to move into quality, sustainable work.”

Barrow Cadbury Trust, LankellyChase Foundation and the Pilgrim Trust commissioned DMSS to undertake a wide ranging review as part of their work to broaden the approach of the Corston Independent Funders Coalition to look at the underlying causes of risk and disadvantage for women and girls. We have been supported by a committed Transitional Steering Group, which comprises Clinks, Women’s Breakout, User Voice and a range of other organisations.


The review looked across the life course of women and girls who experience poor outcomes (offending, homelessness, prostitution and exploitation, chronic mental health and substance abuse) and whilst highlighting significant gaps in the evidence in this area, drew out key messages:


  • Gender inequality affects all women, but there is a gradient of gendered disadvantage with poor, black and minority ethnic women at the bottom.
  • Prevalence research shows that girls are at greater risk of most kinds of abuse, including severe maltreatment and child sexual abuse.
  • In Britain 1 in 4 women experience physical violence perpetrated by a partner at some time in their lives
  • There is an accumulation of risk over the life course and the poorest outcomes are for those who experience abuse and violence as both children and as adults.
  • Many of the outcomes of violence and abuse increase the risk of further victimisation; women who become homeless, misuse drugs and/or are involved in criminality are highly likely to experience further violence.
  • Responses to adversity, including abuse, tend to be differentiated by gender, with boys more likely to externalise problems (and act out anger and distress through anti-social behaviour) and girls to internalise their responses in the form of depression and self-harming behaviours.
  • For women, there is co-existence of different negative life experiences and that women with multiple problems frequently experience difficulty in accessing support.
  • The evidence from service evaluations and research with women at risk supports a model of integrated, holistic, one-stop, women-centred services as being valued and engaging for those who use them although the evidence for achieving specific outcomes is under developed.


The report is critical to the development of a new Alliance of organisations which will bring together a shared narrative and create energy to take action on these issues. Looking across the life course of women and girls, this review demonstrates to the emerging Alliance the importance of having a strong gendered narrative and an understanding of the effect of inequality, violence and abuse.


The full review and key messages summary are both available with the following links: