Innovation Exchange

One Stop Women's Learning Service (OWLS)


Key activities

Benefits and impacts


Further Information

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.

Theme: Community Safety

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The development of the group work programme has in part been informed by the ideas from the women who attend OWLS and is set up to address not only their offending behaviour but their social, emotional, physical and psychological wellbeing. Feedback is routinely sought after every group work session, there is a suggestion box and the women can complete video diaries which allow them to record their own personal thoughts, feelings and life stories.


The group work programme is designed to run on a six month rolling basis and is underpinned by the Stages of Change model which enables a person to gain a more insightful understanding of their behaviour. This model encourages and promotes self-awareness allowing the person to make more considered and positive life choices.


The Angiolini report also identified the importance of giving women a say in determining some of the group work activities.  This helps to promote group cohesion and ownership as well as promoting the participants’ confidence, self-worth and communication skills.

The Angiolini report clearly stated that the lives of women offenders are characterised by multiple complexities and their potential to offend and re-offend links directly to their chaotic lives and lack of social supports.  The development of OWLS has clearly followed the evidential findings of the report which has included utilising and incorporating women’s feedback about what they needed help and assistance with after being sentenced to a Community Payback Order.


The outcomes OWLS endeavours to demonstrate can be linked to each woman’s perception of their achievement through the Rickter assessment – a supported self-assessment.  These include:


  • Reduce offending and re-offending
  • Reduce and stabilise substance misuse
  • Improve physical health
  • Improve mental well being
  • Improve access to appropriate accommodation
  • Improve employability opportunities
  • Income maximisation and improved financial wellbeing


Current analysis of the Rickter assessment has shown the following results:


  • 90% think they have improved their employability and some have already secured employment
  • 80% think their accommodation has improved or is satisfactory
  • 80% think they are in control of and managing their finances
  • 80% think how they manage their relationships has improved
  • 100% think they have reduced or stopped offending
  • 90% think that their leisure interests have improved either through involvement in group activity or the mentoring service
  • 80% think their consumption of alcohol and/or drugs has reduced or under control
  • 100% think that their health has improved both physical and mental health through direct access to specific services
  • 70% think their independent living skills have improved which relates to their increased self-confidence and self esteem

 A suggestion from the women which is now in operation is the use of a camcorder as a video diary which allows the women to record their thoughts and feelings. Also, a strong theme has been the comments from women about wanting to give something back to the community. This links in part to the peer mentoring service and the opportunity for women when stable to be able to be trained by TCA as peer mentors. There are currently five women who are aiming to undertake this type of role.

 To date, there has been full engagement from the women attending OWLS. The women’s feedback is analysed and utilised to modify and tailor the service to ensure we are meeting their needs as well as enabling and empowering women to take control of their lives. Group work also provides a safe place for women to express themselves, develop new skills and self-confidence and self-esteem. From the group work feedback, the women have made the following comments... "I realise I have qualities that are needed by others" … "I’ve learnt more about the skills I have and to recognise them more" … "everybody was able to express their opinions" ... "everyone is involved" … "being in a group made me realise other people are similar to me".


In August 2012, the service was reviewed as it had been running for six months where the women took an active role in this process. This resulted in reconfiguration of the group work sessions as the women wanted input about parenting skills, smaller groups and fund-raising for social activities.


On 8 March 2016, the OWLS centre at 58 Mill Street in Perth was officially opened by the Provost and now operates six days per week.

Contact details:

To find out more about this case study, please contact:


Pamela Banks

Public Protection Team Leader, Community Safety

Perth and Kinross Council

01738 444244

Case study added to site: June 2016

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