Women Supporting Women

"Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher" . Oprah 

On International Women’s Day 2020, we highlight the great organisations supporting women in Islington. Stuart Low Trust is proud to focus on one of these organisations to mark International Women’s Day.

Working Chance supports women leaving the criminal justice and care systems, helping them to find purpose and hope through a programme focusing on confidence and employability. Women in prison face complex challenges that often require tailored support and compassion.

There are almost 4,000 women being held in 12 prisons in England and Wales, making up 5% of the prison population. The majority go to prison for crimes related to poverty or drug addiction, such as shoplifting or benefit fraud. When they go to prison, their life stops and they can lose everything.

Social exclusion 

One of the main functions of prison is to rehabilitate. This means helping someone with a conviction to ensure they won’t commit crime again. Unfortunately, 58% of women go on to reoffend.

While 73% of sentences given to women in the UK are for six months or less, many prisoners can also lose their home, job and custody of children. When released from prison, many find it hard to adjust or become a more productive member of society, mainly because they are released into worse conditions than before their conviction.

Women with criminal convictions often face social exclusion, prejudice and barriers to employment and financial independence.

Thriving and succeeding

For the women who come to Working Chance, the reoffending rate drops to just 4%. Our mission is to help rehabilitate and support women by preparing them to re-enter the labour market and help them to obtain and sustain meaningful, paid employment. We offer employability skills training, career coaching, in-work mentoring, and counselling or therapy to help women thrive and succeed in work.

 “It gives you a really good feeling when you can get up and come to work every day, hold your head up and not feel ashamed about your past because no one is judging you on it.”

Chanel, Sous Chef at Honest Burgers

We also provide resettlement support and specialist interventions in times of crisis to help women successfully re-establish themselves within society and become financially independent.

Being positive

Working Chance recognises that the story doesn’t end when a woman goes to prison. We work across communities, raising awareness and encouraging people to give women with convictions a second chance because the whole of society benefits when everyone has the opportunity to contribute in a positive way.

Women have just a 4% chance of gaining employment within six weeks of being released from prison. Even if able to claim state benefits, there is a five week wait for the first payment. Without a stable income, the likelihood of becoming homeless or reoffending increases.

Employment provides an income, and is one of the strongest factors in reducing reoffending. 

Purpose and Reason

Work provides a sense of purpose and reason, creating a shared goal with colleagues, a common mission and motivation for positive change. For many women it provides a way to use their talents or an opportunity to learn new ones. Success through employment can provide a feeling of accomplishment, appreciation, and hope.

Our success lies in changing the mind-sets of women with convictions who might otherwise lack the confidence to find meaningful employment. Human beings have an incredible capacity to change, when barriers are removed and opportunities made available.

Working Chance is a charity for women who are leaving the criminal justice and care systems.

 For more statistics on women and prisons, look at the Prison Reform Trust's Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile.

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