The One-Stop Women’s Learning Service (OWLS) was set up in response to a recommendation within the report from the Commission on Women Offenders chaired by Dame Elish Angiolini and published in April 2012. The report recommended the establishment of a Community Justice Centre and endorsed a holistic approach to working with women offenders across services by delivering interventions which address their immediate needs and bring about behaviour change to improve the quality of their lives. A fundamental part of this entails the practical support and guidance provided through the mentoring service, progressing to social support via befriending. This should allow women to build their self confidence and self-esteem and to live more productive and fulfilling lives as valued members of their families and communities.
The OWLS service was proposed by the Council’s Community Safety Service and developed and designed in consultation with NHS Tayside, Drug and Alcohol Services and Housing Services. OWLS became operational on 2 February 2013 and the design of the service was informed by a survey of women who had been subject to statutory supervision in the community. A tendering process was also conducted for the mentoring service and Tayside Council on Alcohol (TCA) were the successful in their bid for the Contract. After approximately 6 months mentoring and once a period of stability has been achieved then consideration is given to reducing this support to Befriending. This is provided by the ‘Facing Change Project’ run by Churches Action for the Homeless (CATH).
The initial client group for OWLS was women subject to Community Payback Orders, those who have served short term prison sentences, and those subject to a supervision Licence after release from custody. The implementation of OWLS has been planned to address the nationally recognised concern of the ‘revolving door’ of those subject to short term prison sentences and their propensity to re-offend and return to custody.