A strange empty place – women’s experience of lockdown

Advance shares the experiences of lockdown of 368 women in contact with the criminal justice system.

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Amplifying women's voices

"I lost all structure and now have a whole week to fill. I felt frustration due to chasing services. No data, so I am using WIFI from mother’s home to contact services. Trying hard to build and maintain a structure and motivation. Managing to get a response from housing and the GP but everything is taking so long"

Survey participant

Yesterday (10 August 2020), Advance published its report: ‘A Strange Empty Space’ — Women’s experience of the Covid-19 lockdown. The survey of 368 women in contact with the criminal justice system found that the Covid-19 crisis has exposed the increased hardship, risks and needs of women in the criminal justice system.

Key findings

Women’s needs were adversely impacted during COVID-19 lockdown

  • 75% of women said their support needs had changed due to COVID-19
  • 60% reported a negative effect on their health and wellbeing
  • Women reported an increased risk of
    • 40% financial difficulty,
    • 28% self-harm, and
    • 27% problematic substance use

Women lacked access to basic essentials and to ways of getting help, due to digital exclusion:-

  • 53% of 368 women surveyed did not have access to a smart phone or computer
  • 11% of 368 women had no phone or computer, increasing the risk of safeguarding
  • 20% to 25% of 48 women surveyed could not access food, essential household supplies and medicine
  • 31% of 48 women surveyed needed support with accommodation needs

Women’s most common support needs were mental health & well-being (52%), financial support (35%), physical health (31%), and accommodation (31%).

A small proportion of women reported a reduced risk of offending, self-harm, and substance misuse.

"I’ve been very stressed due to my health conditions and not being able to afford to pay my council tax. I can't afford to pay for medication. I don't have the money to eat what I want to eat"

Survey participant

Recommendations

Learning from this experience through our research, Advance recommends that

  1. Women in the criminal justice system are provided with the fundamentals on their path to break the cycle of re-offending through all commissioned services, including on release from prison access to food, clothing, hygiene packs and other essentials
  2. All women are provided with access to mobile technology to enable them to access and engage with support and services, and address digital inequalities.
  3. All women in the criminal justice system are offered emotional and mental health support, including specialist one-to-one holistic services such as Advance’s Minerva programme and counselling where appropriate, to enable improved engagement with other services to meet women’s often multiple and complex needs.

"The lockdown has made me realise how alone I really am and that I have nobody. But on the flip side, it made me realise that I needed to look into my drug use which I am now getting help with"

Survey participant

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