Posted by: ayrshirehealth | May 20, 2015

Make a difference for vulnerable woman by Mary Jardine

That Winning Feeling: Making a Difference for Vulnerable Women

When my Occupational Therapy (OT) Service lead Lindsay suggested I apply for the Advancing Healthcare Awards (AHA), for the work being done with SACRO (Scottish Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders) and early interventions for female offenders, I have to admit my initial reaction was “Aye, why not?”  AHAMasterlogo_000As Allison Black (The service Co-Ordinator) and I went over the application with Grier McGhee. When she spoke about finalists going to London I recall us doing the “ohhh and ahhh” in all the right places, never thinking for a minute it would be us, well you don’t do you? …..

Just over two weeks ago we were in London, at the awards ceremony, and absolutely thrilled to have won best in our category for Allied Health Professions Integrated Care delivery. Hearing all the fabulous pieces of work being carried out across the UK by a wide range of professionals, all improving services for the people we care for, I remember just being so pleased to bring something back to Ayrshire. I know Allison and I both felt that recognition at this level for our fledgling service, would be appreciated by our managers and partners in the project. Cue flashback……

Minimising the impact

Early and Effective Interventions for Women arose out of the Angiolini Commission (2012) which recommended measures be taken to reduce the numbers in the female prison population, address re-offending and minimize the impact for women in the Criminal Justice System. Prison barsFunding had been given for a year by the Scottish Government to set up a service which was to work with women at the point of offending, to see behind the offence and allow them the opportunity of not progressing further, as in going to court.

This happened at the same point where with my own clinical experience; I realized how much Occupational Therapy had to offer within the criminal justice service and was seeking an opportunity to scope and evidence the role of OT in this new area for us. Enter side left, managers from different services happy to integrate services across traditional boundaries, and a range of stakeholders across relevant organizations who were happy to support the initiative.

A range of reasons why women offend

It has been a truly rewarding experience. Because Allison and I can access all the different information systems, we meet the women with as much background information as can be gathered. We know if they have had previous input from Mental Health, Addictions, Social Work, Criminal Justice etc. We have an idea as to whether they have not engaged in services or fallen between the gaps somewhere along the line. We have found such a range of reasons why women offend, from stealing nappies and food because they cannot afford the basics due to welfare cuts (immediate benefits review, budgeting), to having acted out of character while under the influence of alcohol (alcohol brief interventions, confidence building, assertiveness work), to finding out why they lashed out (victims of abuse, PTSD, Mental Health, and forward referral to mainstream services).

Engaged to support

I love OTAs an OT with a background in mental health and addictions, I am ideally placed in identifying and dealing with these issues and to address practical coping strategies. But it is a time limited tailored package of care, and I work with Allison who in her role, ensures relevant parties are engaged to support the women on an ongoing basis, as we aim for maintaining women at home, in their community, with the right support.

Initially, the women are all a bit reserved, then relieved when they know we are there to help, and.. after our work which can range from a few visits to a few months, they are sorry to see us go, but glad we were part of their second chance. There has been nothing but positive feedback from the women involved. In looking at the statistics gathered, a certain manager commented that we are reducing re-offending by 70% at the moment… that’s great to know, it’s even better hearing the difference it makes in the women’s lives, their family relationships and their ability to cope…..

Negative spiralWe recently came across a young woman who did not have access to our service, before it was pan Ayrshire. Her case is going to court, she has lost her job, cannot get benefits at the moment, has fallen out with her family, and feels herself caught in a negative spiral..

She was under the influence of alcohol at the time but not a regular drinker, just reacted badly to someone else being aggressive. They phoned the police….. and so it started…

And the winner is ..

Winners - SACROscreen-capture-1Back to the present… and the shock of being ‘Overall Winners’ at the AHA Awards into the bargain. I hope that interview never airs as I cannot recall one word I said, but pretty sure I looked like a kid on Christmas morning.

If Chamberlain Dunn think our service can be rolled out nationwide, I hope we can keep it going here.

Wouldn’t it be great if Ayrshire could be the epicenter of a model of integrated working that makes a real difference?

This week’s blog  was by Mary Jardine, Senior Occupational Therapist, NHS Ayrshire & Arran





  1. Congratulations. What a wonderful idea. I hope it is extended to the whole of Scotland

  2. Great to read about this innovative joint working that appears to be making a big diffrence to the woman you engage with. Well done.

  3. Congratulations on your success! What are the next steps in the journey of this transformational service?

  4. What a difference this amazing project must make to the vulnerable women you support; a really interesting and well written blog. Also, many congratulations to you and Alison on achieving such a huge national win for Ayrshire & Arran. I Hope your ground breaking project is integrated with other services and perhaps rolled out nationally.

    • Thank you so much!, truly hope it is a model that is adopted nationally….
      We are now trying to secure funding for the project to continue,and will keep you all updated on our efforts….

  5. fantastic – well done!

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