A Peterborough charity which helps women just out of prison to get their life back on track was visited by government minister Justin Tomlinson ahead of International Women’s Day (Friday, March 8).
Mr Tomlinson, the Department for Work and Pension’s minister for family support, housing and child maintenance, praised the Dawn Project for its record of helping women coming out of the criminal justice system to overcome barriers to employment and get into work.
The minister met with staff and service users to see first-hand how the organisation’s holistic approach to supporting women with complex needs is helping to reduce re-offending, as well as providing an alternative to custodial sentences for women and reducing the instances of community orders being breached.
Mr Tomlinson said: “The Dawn Project does an excellent job of providing women with the confidence and skills to unlock their potential. I was delighted to be able to celebrate its success ahead of International Women’s Day.
“Its track record of helping women create the foundations they need to get back into work is a glowing example of how a local organisation can have a big impact.
“Peterborough should be proud of the Dawn Project and the women who work hard to overcome difficult circumstances and get their lives back on track.”
Set up in 2009, the Dawn Project is a one-stop service for women who are in the criminal justice system. It works with both women who are released from prison and those who have been given supervised court orders as an alternative to jail.
Women referred there may have problems including with drugs, alcohol and debt, or be from violent relationships.
Those referred attend classes aimed at improving their conflict and stress management skills.
Confidence building sessions are also offered, as well as help to secure housing and benefits in order for the women to create the best possible platform to build a better future and ultimately re-join the workforce.
During his visit, the minister met one woman who had been given a court order to attend the project who explained her confidence had risen in the short term she had been attending the project and was working her way towards returning to education with the goal of creating her own business.
Angie Young, support worker at Peterborough Dawn Project, said: “The Dawn Project is an initiative delivered by Cambridge Women’s Resources Centre in its 10 year anniversary.
“The Dawn Project has seen a decrease in reoffending rates with women making constructive changes for the better, leading to improved social cohesion, social interaction and quality of relationships and empowering change.
“It was great that the minister was able to hear first-hand about the work we do empowering women to effect change in their lives. He was particularly pleased to learn how we assist women at the jobcentre and how we felt our model could be replicated, which was very encouraging.”