‘A’, 56, was referred to the Community Action Center for Women Empowerment from court. Her offence was fraud and she had obtained several tens of thousand of pounds from her employer. She was required to attend Asha as part of her unpaid work order. This was ‘A’s first offence. She was sentenced to 200 hours unpaid work and an 8 month suspended sentence order.
‘A’ lost her job and employment as a result of her offence. She was supported by her immediate family, with the exception of one of her children from whom she became estranged after the offence. She lost the majority of her friends and social circle as people became aware of what had happened. Because of the nature of her offence, ‘A’ was unlikely to obtain employment in her field of expertise again. Her relationship with her husband was supportive but fragile as ‘A’ battled with her feelings of remorse and shame brought upon herself and her family.
‘A’ presented as a woman suffering an acute loss of self confidence and worth together with a lack of direction in her life, after experiencing lengthy court proceedings and a county court summons at the same time. Her experience of the criminal justice system was often bewildering and humiliating as she turned up for her bail appointments at the police station only to be told that she had to return at a later date as the file was not ready. Unfortunately ‘A’ was never advised of this beforehand and so made several unnecessary journeys. She often felt humiliated and bewildered due to her ignorance of the criminal justice system that was compounded then by statutory agencies failing to treat her with compassion.
During the period of time (10 months) that ‘A’ was waiting for the case to go to court, she secured a part time job working at a local business but once the case was reported in the local press ‘A’ was dismissed immediately. All of the above left ‘A’ feeling insecure about her future and her ability to find meaningful employment in the future.
When ‘A’ was referred to the Community Action Center for Women Empowerment, she was very quiet and withdrawn and felt uneasy in a group situation as her whole world had collapsed since the offence. ‘A’ received 1:1 support, as well as attending a variety of groups and programmes designed to support her and enable her to face the future with more confidence. Together a support plan designed to address the issues and equip her with motivation and capacity to address her feelings was devised in conjunction with her support worker. The following courses were identified as being key:
As a result of her attendance and involvement here and renewed confidence, ‘A’ felt able to take a certificate in Leading Walking Groups, enabling her to lead and set up her own walking group and she has also volunteered to run the Book Group for Asha centre users.
She describes the support and environment at Asha as being different to that experienced in the statutory sector and that it made her feel comfortable and able to fully participate in the programmes and courses without being questioned about her background or experience. This in turn enabled her to feel able to develop and learn without prejudice.
She describes the 3 appointments at the local probation office as an experience which she said made her feel like a baddie because of the waiting room, the “cage” and the fact that she was always made to wait for her appointments. The rest of her appointments were at Asha which she said she much preferred as she felt that in spite of her offending background, she was not treated with any less respect than any other woman attending.
Together with her qualifications and new found confidence, ‘A’ also managed to secure herself a part time job in the summer of this year and has re-engaged with her estranged child as well. ‘A’ has found that the holistic approach offered by Asha has enabled her to progress both professionally and personally and she describes herself as feeling more interesting and able to be open and confident within herself.