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PAC: ‘Spend to save’ on women in the criminal justice system

28 April 2022

In a report today the Public Accounts Committee says “it is clear to us” that implementing the 2018 Female Offender Strategy “has been a relatively low priority for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and was so even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The aims of the strategy are widely supported but “actual progress delivering it has been disappointing”: despite an emphasis on expanding community services for women to reduce the need for courts and prisons, Government spent just £9.5 million on community services for women over four years compared to a commitment to spend £200 million on 500 additional prison places for women.  MoJ’s recent funding settlement included £550 million over the next three years to reduce reoffending by men and women: the Committee says “this money provides the MoJ with a clear opportunity to ‘spend to save’ in community services for women”.

The strategy is not underpinned by the goals or metrics that would allow MoJ to be held to account on the strategy or demonstrate its value. Successful implementation of the strategy relies on the police, courts, probation, local authorities, voluntary organisations and the health service working together to address the underlying causes of women’s offending but the Committee says it is only in a few areas where local leadership, for example from police and crime commissioners, has led to effective co-operation between organisations to make it work.

Chair's comments

Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said:

“Once again we see a situation where government is unwilling or unable to prioritise the investment needed to reduce the ruinous financial, social and human costs of our creaking criminal justice system.

Imprisoning a vulnerable woman who perhaps has children - who may then also fall between the cracks - is the very picture of the cost-shunting that became the hallmark of our criminal justice system long before the massive new challenges of the pandemic. The result of this gap between rhetoric and reality is an unacceptable human and economic toll.

Government must finally put the money where its mouth is on criminal offending and ‘spend to save’ for the benefit to all society, families and individuals.”

Further information

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