A CENTRE is celebrating its first anniversary of helping thousands of women who have passed through the doors.
Tomorrow’s Women Wirral (TWW), based at the former St Laurence’s School in Birkenhead, helps women offenders and those at risk of offending to change their lives.
It is so successful that it outgrew the section of the building it previously occupied and had to be moved to the old larger junior wing.
Run voluntarily it supports women over 18 who have offended although anyone interested in attending classes are welcome.
Open five days a week the centre runs a wide range of classes including floristry, dressmaking and many other subjects run by Wirral Met College.
In addition to the four probation officers housed there visitors can come for advice. There is also a nurse and solicitor on hand to help.
Chair of TWW Maureen Thompson, who is also a member of Soroptimist International, helped set up the project.
She said: “At the time I was the chairman of Wirral Magistrates and I was approached to help set it up. It took nearly a year to find premises and Wirral Change let us share their building as they knew we had limited funding.
“Now we have expanded and in April moved to bigger and brighter rooms. We are now self-governing. We have gained charity status which allows us to bid for grants and we are about to take on two new members of staff.
“In the last four months we have had 500 women pass through our doors, some have served time in prison or on probation. This is a terrific amount of people.
“A lot of them stole for their families, committed fraud, alcohol and drug abuse, depression, shoplifting and murder.
“Prior to us opening 47% complied with courts orders but now it has increased to 97% who are abiding with their conditions which is tremendous.
“We have a fabulous team of 30 volunteers and we always welcome more.
“Every day a member of the Heswall group of Soroptimist International comes in and runs the breakfast club and chats to women.
“Our aims are the same as Soroptimist International – which is empowering women. We help get their self-esteem back and boost their confidence.
“We are there to support women, try and get them employed and keep out of crime. It is fantastic to see the transformation as within 12 months they are employed and happy.”
The project is part of a country-wide network including centres in Sefton and Liverpool.
It followed the recommendations of Baroness Corston’s influential report in 2007 which highlighted the complex needs of women offenders.
Women may self refer or attend voluntarily as part of their probation supervision or will be referred to the project via a requirement of a community order.
Maureen added: “When a mother goes to prison their children are taken in to care, they lose their home and husband. So when they come out the family is broken up and it is hard to get the children back. But when a man goes into prison the family is still waiting for him.
“Sentences are usually a lot tougher as people don’t expect women to commit crime so they are handled more harshly.
“The hundreds of women who come through our doors show there is a need for the centre on Wirral.
“Research shows people who come out of prison are likely to commit crime again but we are keeping women out of trouble.
“The compliance rate is increasing and women are getting jobs so we are saving the public purse money. Otherwise it costs £4,000 a week to keep them in prison if they re-offend, but this service costs nothing. They attend courses to educate them and be aware of any dangers such as domestic violence and they come out the other end. It also make Wirral a safer place with less crime committed.”