New project helps women prison leavers take first steps to independence

St Giles Trust is offering vital help to vulnerable women leaving prison and returning to London under the new Footsteps project.

Thanks to funding from The City Bridge Trust, Footsteps supports women who have mental health and/or complex support needs. It aims to stabilise their situations and help them adjust to life in the community. It is specifically targeted at women with very high support needs who might struggle to engage with mainstream services.

Footsteps works in partnership with multiple agencies to help address the wide range of needs vulnerable women in the criminal justice system typically experience. These include homelessness, mental health issues, substance misuse, domestic abuse, sex working and debt. Footsteps is a flexible, multifaceted service responding to the individual support needs of women on a case by case basis.

The project is overseen by Team Leader Ali Beach who is experienced in working with vulnerable women in the criminal justice system. She previously led a project helping female prison leavers affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder and Personality Disorder traits until the funding for it ended last year.

“Leaving prison can be a very traumatic experience for women with mental health and complex needs,” said Ali. “It is a time when they are at their most vulnerable and at highest risk of abuse from ex-partners, homelessness and returning to their previously chaotic lifestyle.
“Footsteps will aim to address this by offering friendly, intensive support from day one of their release until they are resettled, linked up with the right support services and able to manage independently.”

Footsteps will work with women leaving HMPs Bronzefield, Downview and Send and will also take referrals from community-based partner agencies including London-based Community Mental Health Teams.