Award-winning programme for women hosts round table discussion for leaders in criminal justice sector

LEADING figures from the criminal justice sector have come together to discuss innovative new approaches to policing as part of celebrations to mark an award won by a Reading-based community programme.

A round table discussion on the theme of Partnerships and Trauma-Informed Practice was jointly hosted by Alana House, Reading, and the Howard League for Penal Reform yesterday (Tuesday 17th April).

The discussion was chaired by Graham Barker, High Sheriff of Berkshire 2018/19 and among the attendees were Reading Police Area Commander Supt Stan Gilmour, Chief Executive of Berkshire Community Foundation Gerry Lejeune OBE and representatives from business, statutory, criminal justice, charity, health and social care sectors.

The event highlighted the benefits of using a trauma-informed approach to tackle penal reform, the current local issues, identified gaps in services available, and encouraged participants to suggest solutions, explore ways of working together and to pledge to take ownership and action.

It was followed by a party at Alana House to mark the project's eighth birthday and to celebrate the Howard League award won by the Alana House-based Enrich Programme.

The Enrich Programme was developed in response to partners identifying a need to work together to better support women who have reached crisis point, often experiencing domestic abuse, poor mental health, substance misuse, poverty, unemployment and isolation.

The Enrich programme partners Alana House (PACT), Thames Valley Police, IRIS and Reading Borough Council aimed to:

  • Help women develop resilience, life skills, self-esteem and confidence
  • Reduce criminal behaviour by encouraging women to make better informed decisions
  • Reduce vulnerability, and reduce the costs to statutory services (police, ambulance and A&E).

In its pilot phase, all the women attending the Enrich Programme reported increased self-esteem and confidence and 100% saw a reduction in calls on police time.

Alana House is run by family support charity Parents And Children Together (PACT) and was established in 2010 to provide holistic support vulnerable and distressed women including those at the edge of the criminal justice system.

The Howard League for Penal Reform hosts annual awards to celebrate best practice in diversionary work and champion work in the community that challenges and changes people for the better. The Howard League believes that projects which help to keep people out of the criminal justice system, by providing alternative, effective and targeted interventions will reduce the risk of re-offending.

Speaking after the event, Supt Stan Gilmore said:"The idea of the event was to celebrate the award but also to move forward and keep developing this way of working that we piloted so successfully. 

"There was lots of interest and energy from the people in the room and it is vitally important that we continue to work together in partnership as this needs to be extended to other geographies."

Graham Barker said: "This is a significant award and I am so pleased that the Howard League, one of the oldest penal reform organisations in the world, has recognised the value of this project in Reading and how it represents a model for all sorts of projects."

PACT Chief Executive Jan Fishwick OBE said: "It was an honour to partner with the Howard League to host this special event as part of the celebrations for the award won by the Enrich Programme.

"At Alana House, our aim is to give women opportunities to make courageous and positive changes that benefit not only their lives and the lives of their families but also the wider community. At this round table event we have been able to share the successes and learnings from our Enrich Programme with influential figures from the sector."

Howard League Chief Executive Frances Crook said: "I am so pleased to be a part of the celebrations. This project represents women working together, supporting each other and achieving wonderful things. It is a fantastic way of working and I will be doing my best to share this widely."