HL Deb 17 March 2005 vol 670 cc147-8WA
Lord Avebury

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to each of the recommendations made in the report by the Prison Reform Trust, Lacking Conviction: the rise of the women's remand population. [HL1639]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

The Government share the Prison Reform Trust's concern about the number of women in prison, in particular the female remand population and those serving short sentences. We welcomed the reportLacking Conviction which highlights some important issues about the use of custodial remands for women and provides some helpful ideas on how those issues could be tackled. The Government agree that more needs to be done to support greater use of community interventions and bail for women offenders, and to ensure that custody is used only for those who really need to be there.

We are pursuing these aims through the Women's Offending Reduction Programme which contains action points designed to improve community interventions and services that are better tailored to the needs of women. One of our priorities is to increase opportunities to divert women away from custody at the pre-sentence stage. The programme will address a number of the Prison Reform Trust's recommendations, including: making support in the community more appropriate and accessible for women; developing a community multi-agency approach to tackling women's complex needs; and improving the effectiveness of court-based diversion schemes for women offenders with mental health problems.

The report also calls for an increase in women-only bail hostels. The National Probation Service accommodation strategy includes a commitment to develop more women-only provision within the approved premises estate.