Women’s Breakout

Women’s Breakout Consultation


I am a woman first and last

About the Project

Since August 2013 User Voice has been working on behalf of Women’s Breakout to gather the views, opinions, experiences and recommendations of female service users nationwide. Women's Breakout Focus Group

The project was designed to capture the stories of women who have been through the ‘system’ and allow them to explicate their issues and needs in their own voices.

This lived expertise will form the basis of a co-produced and generative event whereby these themes could be discussed and recommendations for future change developed.

User Voice’s involvement in this project enabled us to do what we do best: promote the voice of service users and facilitate the taking of their voice to decision makes and service providers.

Focus Groups

User Voice visited 10 women’s centres across the country for initial engagement meetings.
W. Breakout F group
These provided an opportunity to meet staff and service users, and to give an overview of the project.

Following on from these introductory visits, focus groups were held in the women’s centres so as to start building a national understanding of women’s experiences of the criminal justice system.

With well over 50 women attending these events, each with their own stories and opinions, an insightful picture was able to start emerging.

List of women’s centres involved:

Each focus group chose two representatives to attend the nationwide event in London.

Ahead of the national event, these representatives attended regional training sessions to help them develop skills, such as public speaking, that would help them share their stories.


Open Space Event, Mother’s Union, 12th December 2013

Women from each region joined User Voice staff for an informal get-to-know each other the evening before the Women’s Breakout open space.

Women's Breakout Open space

The event itself on the following day was attended by over 70 delegates who represented organisations such as CATCH 22, the HM Inspectorate of Prisons, the Ministry of Justice, London Probation Trust, Addaction, the Big Lottery Fund and more.


The open space nature of the event meant that service users and service providers all had the opportunity to voice their opinions and experiences and to propose recommendations for change.

Women's Breakout Open Space

There were also a number of ‘breakout groups’ which were run by User Voice staff and covered the specific issues of:

  • ETE (education, training & employment)
  • Children & family
  • Support
  • Stigma
  • Feelings

Feedback from attendees, as well as the number of insightful and thought-provoking recommendations submitted by service users and providers, highlighted how successful the day was.

Full results from the event will be incorporated into the final report, titled ‘I am a woman first and last’ and due to be published in 2014.