Since 2015, the Prison Reform Trust’s Transforming Lives programme has aimed to reduce women’s imprisonment across the UK. During that time the programme has engaged with over 150 women with lived experience of the criminal justice system. As we prepare to draw the programme to a close this autumn, research by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), published today, gives an insight into how women were involved, and the perceived impact of their contribution.

Click here to read NatCen’s research report.

Click here to read a blog by Yasmin Akhtar about her experience as a Transforming Lives Women’s Council member.

Click here to read a blog by report co-author Arjun Liddar.

NatCen’s research involved in-depth interviews with women and other stakeholders who had been involved in three events in 2019, and an exploration of what meaningful engagement looked and felt like to women, as well as their and their audiences’ perceptions of the effects of their involvement. NatCen concludes that it is important for organisations to take care weighing up potential benefits and risks when deciding about how best to involve women with lived experience, taking account of what disclosing their lived experience can mean for the individual, and working to mitigate potential harms by providing support, as well as maximising the value of their involvement by carefully targeting specific audiences and ensuring the women’s experiences are relevant and diverse.

The authors also talk about the importance of ensuring women’s involvement is meaningful, by examining what involvement might entail for individuals, investing time and resources in supporting them to contribute fully, and ensuring there is some benefit to the women in taking part. NatCen found that ‘aftercare’ is an essential part of women’s involvement – emotional support after the event, as well as debriefing and following up to let women know what, if anything, happened as a result of their involvement.

This follows up NatCen’s earlier evaluation of the Transforming Lives programme’s advocacy work, which found that it had made a significant contribution to long-sought policy reform but that implementation and practice on the ground lag behind.