As part of this project, three Women’s Centres were established in Fort William, Johnstone and Cumnock. The aim was to create a physical base for activity while adopting a whole community approach, drawing on the existing assets and strengths of the community. It was hoped that this approach could help to support all women, including those who are at risk of negative outcomes as a result of the specific social or structural issues they face.
Our interest in improving well-being for women and supporting the development of Women’s Centres was borne out of our involvement in the criminal justice sector and, in particular, the 2012 Commission on Women Offenders.
The Commission recognised that there were a range of interrelated factors which have a specific impact on women involved in the criminal justice system and recommended that Women's Centres were established ‘for women offenders to enable them to access a consistent range of services to reduce reoffending and bring about behavioural change’.
Through extensive research into existing women’s centres in England and Northern Ireland, we found that, whilst a joined-up model of delivery could support women in the criminal justice system, an approach which focussed on their involvement with the criminal justice system brought a risk of further stigmatisation. It was suggested that a more holistic approach which provided support to women ‘experiencing tough times’ within a wider community setting could provide better results.