Corston Independent Funders' Coalition

Women and Girls at Risk: evidence across the life course: 4 August 2014

As part of their work with the Corston Independent Funders Coalition, Barrow Cadbury Trust, LankellyChase Foundation and the Pilgrim Trust commissioned a review looking at the underlying causes of of risk and disadvantage for women and girls.

A full report and the summary of key findings can be found below and the news release from Lankelly Chase can also be viewed here.

Independent Evaluation of the CIFC Launched: 24 January 2012

The Corston Independent Funders’ Coalition (CIFC) has just published an external evaluation on the work it has undertaken since 2008. The report shows that its unique approach to funding advocacy has ensured the crucial issue of women in prison remains a priority for the government and UK public.

The full evaluation can be downloaded below, along with the full press release and presentation from Teresa Elwes, Grant Executive at the Bromley Trust:

Background to the CIFC

In June 2008, a group of independent foundations, led by Teresa Elwes of the Bromley Trust, wrote a letter to Jack Straw MP as Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice calling for the recommendations of the Corston Report to be implemented. The report was written by Baroness Corston for the Government and highlights the real issues affecting vulnerable female offenders and how they should be treated for better outcomes on all sides. It provides a constructive series of recommendations suggesting a rethink in the way we treat vulnerable women. It received widespread media, political and sector support.

Almost 18,000 children are affected each year by the imprisonment of their mother, with only 5% remaining in the family home leading to an increase of intergenerational crime and abuse, whereas the vast majority of the children of male prisoners remain in their own homes, cared for by their mothers. The latest statistics show that more women are sent to prison for theft and handling stolen goods than any other crime and that 63% received less than six months. The damage caused to both women and children far outweigh the risk the women pose to society.

An announcement was made on 10 December 2008 by Justice Minister Maria Eagle MP confirming that Government had launched a report detailing the government’s commitment to bring about real improvements for women offenders. The report included a commitment to provide: “additional resourcing in the New Year to divert vulnerable women, who are not serious or dangerous offenders, from custody. We plan to reduce the number of women in prison and to provide additional services in the community for women offenders and women at risk of offending”. This was followed in February 2008 by a commitment from government of £15.6m ring fenced towards such work.

Prior to these encouraging announcements many of the foundations which signed the letter to Jack Straw MP held a series of meetings to agree how they could take action to directly bring about change in response to the Corston Report. As a result, they agreed to collectively develop a post and fund a worker (for 18 months) to work with independent funders and Government with an aim to implement the recommendations from the report.

This is a unique approach - funders working together in this way is unprecedented and may lead to similar strategies in the future. It also highlights to Government that independent funders are committed to taking action and are determined to work with them to address social issues.

Teresa Elwes, Grants Executive of the Bromley Trust, adds:

"Looking back on the last two years we have achieved much of what we set out to - together we have learnt from our grantees and supported a network of services to provide a real alternative to custody for some of the most vulnerable women in our society. We have developed an independent relationship with government that has led to a real recognition of the role that foundations play in supporting services.

Our investments feel safer now and less at the mercy of sudden changes in policy and legislation. We have identified some of the key points that lead to long term sustainability and in this case, the mainstreaming of One Stop Shops and the full implementation of the Corston Agenda. We have secured a commitment from the new government, and we have shown that foundations can work together to build on the expertise of our grantees and our own overview of the sector and strategically support the changes we seek."