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Women’s Hour went to Anawim Women’s Centre for a special programme examining alternatives to prison for low-risk female offenders.

 

The hour long report features moving interviews with women on the Re-Unite programme who speak candidly of the challenges they have faced – particularly growing up in care, violent relationships and mental health problems.

The first day…I was a nervous wreck… I remember thinking [the centre] is all full of criminals and druggies…but we’re all in the same boat, we all have a problem. After a few weeks it’s like a second home… this is my safe place. It’s not soft…my worker is there to push me and she’ll notice if I’m slipping a bit and say ‘come on, what’s the matter?’

I was in and out of care from 9 months old….I never really had any family so when I was 15, I was brought to Birmingham by social services and they put me in a hostel. I’ve been on my own ever since. My children are now in care….That’s why places like [Anawim] are needed. Because I was in the system and had no support and no family…. You’ve got no-one to help you and no-one to give you guidance…

I have one day when I have to come in but I sometimes come in four times a week because I can benefit from support from the support workers. I’m looking for work on the computers, they do training courses…my children are in care and they can help me with towards getting my children back home and sorting my life out. My children have been in care two years and I see them for about an hour and a half at a centre

Support workers give some honest insights into the challenges of supporting women who are often living extremely chaotic lives…

It’s about working with her, making her aware of what’s in the best interests of the child and [sometimes] making them understand that at that moment in time it might not be best for the child to be back with them and they’ve got to accept that they’re being a good parent by accepting that. That’s really hard to do. A lot of them don’t have trust for professionals but the nice thing here is that we can sit with them, have a cup of tea and get to know them and build that relationship up so that they can trust you.

My priority is the welfare of the children and to have the children back home with mum if that’s appropriate…then it’s about making them the best parents they can be

 

Listen to the full programme here.