Safer Wales CEO, Bernie Bowen-Thomson, reacts to plans for residencial rehabilitation centres

Our CEO, Bernie Bowen-Thomson, explains why the government’s plans for residential rehabilitation centres for female offenders is the right approach for women in Wales.

Last week it was announced that the government has scrapped plans for five women’s community prisons in Wales and England.

Instead, the Ministry of Justice will be trialling five residential centres that will focus on rehabilitating offenders, and has also promised to spend £5million over the next two years on community provisions for women.

At Safer Wales, we’ve spent the last 20 years working with women and girls in, or at risk of entering, the criminal justice system. 

We work with South Wales Police to deliver our pathfinder service which helps to address the reasons why women commit crimes in the first place and, since 2016, 90 per cent of those we have engaged with did not go on to reoffend within six months.

This is remarkable when you consider that 51 per cent of women leaving prison will be reconvicted within a year, and among those on short sentences of less than 12 months, this rises to 62 per cent.

If one of the aims of prison is to reduce offending by women, it doesn’t work. In fact, given that roughly a quarter of female inmates have no previous conviction, sending a woman to prison increases the probability of her offending again.

Our experience has shown us that rehabilitating women within the community is the best approach for reducing reoffending rates and enabling often very vulnerable women the chance to turn their lives around.

All the evidence shows that women’s routes into criminality are very different, their needs are very different, and that short sentences – which have increased by 43 per cent in the last five years -  have a disproportionate effect on women.

According to the Prison Reform Trust, female prisoners are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators: 46 per cent have suffered domestic violence and 53 per cent have experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse during childhood.

Additionally, because women are more likely to be single parents and the prime homemaker, they run a greater risk of ending up homeless after prison and losing access to their children.

The impact of this on a child can be huge, affecting not just their day-to-day stability but also their future health and wellbeing.  Surely keeping families together wherever possible is the best solution for safeguarding future generations?

Rates of mental illness are also much higher among the female prison population: 30 per cent will have had a psychiatric admission before coming to prison, and 37 per cent have previously attempted suicide. This illustrates how vulnerable and distressed many women prisoners are, and how the system has failed these women when they end up serving short term sentences in prison.

The way our criminal justice system is managed effects everyone, not just offenders. In a time of austerity, we need to find solutions that work for the tax payer as well as those in need of rehabilitation.

In 2009/2010 keeping a woman in prison for one-year cost £56,415 while an equivalent community sentence cost just £1,360. If a woman’s children are placed in care, the cost of a prison sentence can rocket, from an extra £40,000 to place a child with no specialist needs in care for 14 months, to £525,000 over 20 months for placing a child with complex needs in care. It’s estimated that moving just 1,000 women out of prison and on to a community sentence would save the Ministry of Justice at least £12m a year.

So looking for alternatives and supporting women within the community to get back on track, rather than favouring costly prison sentences, is the right approach - and one we know works.


Maria (name changed) was referred to Safer Wales after she was arrested for the first time for stealing from her workplace and, as a consequence, losing her job.

This was the first time she had ever been in trouble with the police, and the experience was obviously distressing.

"It was really frightening and claustrophobic. I was thinking about my partner, my family and my kids".

As a first time offender, Maria was offered the chance to work with us to tackle her drug addiction, which had driven her to offend in the first place. Despite being addicted to both cocaine and heroin for 30 years, Maria managed to overcome her addiction and find a new job.

"It was such a relief. It's the best thing that's happened to me, I've learnt a lot and I got lots of support."

Maria’s story is one example of the hundreds of women we’ve seen make positive changes in their lives when given the support they need.

By moving the emphasis away from custodial sentences and towards community rehabilitation, this new strategy means we can reduce the ultimately counterproductive practice of separating mothers from their children; placing vulnerable women with substance misuse and mental health issues on short term prison sentences.   

With our devolved government’s commitment to increasing community safety and safeguarding future generations in Wales, we have a unique opportunity to ensure our communities are safer through progressive approaches to criminal justice.

We’re looking forward to working together with agencies and lawmakers alike to help shape a system that works for women in Wales and across the UK.  





Farewell from our Co-CEO Barbara Natasegara

As many of you know I am leaving Safer Wales at the end of December, and exploring some new avenues work-wise, including consultancy and mentoring.   I will be also continuing my work as a Humanist celebrant; (if you are interested in this, you can find me here

It is a privilege to be able to leave the organisation at a good time, and in good hands, led by a team who is committed to continue creating a safer future, with Bernie Bowen-Thomson as  CEO, supported by Karen Maxwell (Director of Services Standards) and Simon Borja (Director of Project Development) in the Senior Management Team.  

It's been a roller coaster ride -  (more highs than lows, thankfully!) over the 20 years I have been with the charity, and I have met and worked with many wonderful, committed and inspiring people, both in our own team and in other agencies across Wales and the UK.

Partnership working and collaboration is at the heart of Safer Wales and I am grateful for the support you have shown and continue to show for the work we do.

With all best wishes for the festive season and for a peaceful and positive New Year 2018.

Barbara  Natasegara


Safer Wales - Enhanced Child Tax Credit Response

Safer Wales Board of Trustees was recently asked to give our view on whether we were willing to be included in the list of “accredited” organisations that can support a woman's claim that her third or more child(ren) were the result of rape, with the result of rape and consequently enabling that individual to claim enhanced Child Tax Credit.

Our prime concern is the safety and support of our survivor clients. We believe that agencies such as our own are best placed to safeguard clients including facilitating safe disclosure. Whilst we understand the aims of the policy and are supportive of any effort that ensures more assistance is given to those in most need, we do have some concerns which we would be grateful if you take into account. Safer Wales believes the proposed implementation of this exception to the limiting of the individual child tax credit, as it is currently presented, risks a reduction in community safety, an increase in safeguarding risks, and is potentially a breach of human rights. This is not in the best interests of survivors of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Bernie Bowen-Thomson, Co-CEO Safer Wales said  “Safer Wales believes the new Child Tax Credit legislation seriously risks undermining the credibility of survivors of rape and poses a concerning risk to community safety. We also believe it is potentially a breach of human rights.

“As a charity that works with the most vulnerable people in society, including survivors of sexual violence and domestic abuse, our prime concern is the safety of the people we protect and their access to justice. 

“We believe this clause has the potential to seriously undermine the positive work that has been developed since the 1990s to increase victim confidence in reporting perpetrators of sexual violence.

“By weakening victims’ voices and undermining the efforts of agencies such as Safer Wales, it threatens the vital work with survivors of rape to obtain justice, which is already a difficult field.”


Oscars: 'State of Shock' for Joanna Natasegara

Congratulations to Joanna Natasegara who was the only British winner at last nights Oscars.

Our Co-CEO Barabara Natasegara has been interviewed by BBC Wales to highlight her daughters acheivement and how her passion for social justice and human rights developed whilst volunteering and working at Safer Wales.

Congratulations from all the staff, volunteers and trustees at Safer Wales.


Pobol-Y-Cwm encourages men not To Suffer in Silence


An actor, who plays a domestic abuse victim in an S4C soap opera is encouraging victims to speak out and confide in a friend or ask a charity for help.

Over the past few months Pobol y Cwm viewers have been shocked as Sioned's psychological and physical torment over her husband Ed worsens. The soap wanted to do justice to the story, and spoke to charity Safer Wales, who help domestic abuse victims in Wales. Simon Borja is Safer Wales's Director of Project Development and he's pleased that Pobol y Cwm are raising the issue.

"The Safer Wales 'Dyn project' is the only dedicated service in Wales that supports men who experience domestic abuse. We support many hundreds of men across Wales. We have been advising Pobol y Cwm on this storyline which included the cast members meeting a man we protected. Safer Wales welcomes Pobol y Cwm's decision to tackle such a sensitive subject and help other men come forward for support"

Geraint Todd plays helpless victim Ed; and the actor admits things are about to take an even darker turn this week, as he tries to defend himself from his abusive wife, Sioned.

"The way that society is structured has meant men are traditionally seen as the stronger sex, and if men are suffering from domestic abuse, they're afraid to speak out. But thankfully things are gradually better, with men and women seen more equal nowadays, but there's still a long way to go. It's important for sufferers to speak to charities like Safer Wales, there are wonderful people offering support out there," says Geraint, who grew up in Pontypridd, but now lives in Cardiff.

"As part of my research into Ed's abuse I spoke to a victim, and hearing his story stunned me. He made me realise that this storyline is very real and needs to be talked about. Sometimes in soaps, stories become melodramas, but as a result of our close relationship with Safer Wales this story is raw and honest.

"Ed loved Sioned at the start of their relationship and was willing to live with her temper; but as the abuse continues his feelings change and he's now afraid of her. She's knocked his confidence, and he's unable to fight.

"Ed feels he's unable to confide in his friend Kelly who is aware of the abuse. Although she helps and supports him, he can't fully trust her."

But as Sioned's grasp on Ed gets stronger, will he be able to escape the violence? Things are about to take a dramatic turn in Pobol y Cwm this week.

Pobol y Cwm

Monday-Thursday, 8.00, S4C

English and Welsh subtitles

Monday-Friday, 6.00, S4C with on-screen English subtitles    

A BBC Cymru Wales production

Job Vacancy - Resettlement Team Manager


P/T Resettlement Team Manager

Location: HMP Eastwood Park Gloucester (main location) limited travel to HMP Styal and Wales office expected

Salary: £28,449.90 - £29,330.38 - £30237.50 pro rata* Contract Type: Permanent subject to funding

Closing Date: 16 January 2017 Interview Date: 24th & 25th January 2017
Hours: 1 x Part-time post 29 hours week with some flexibility around hours possible to fit around prison schedules

About Safer Wales:

We believe that everyone has the right to be safe and not live in fear because of attitudes or actions taken by other people. Safer Wales is an independent charity based in Cardiff. We sometimes work with (but are not part of) the public sector (i.e. the council; the police; the courts; the health service; the fire service; The Welsh Assembly Government) to get the best service for you.

What we do:

We work to help people feel safer in their daily lives. This might be through providing you with support or a service that you need or it might be about carrying out work to change attitudes of other people to accept others regardless of difference.


P/T Resettlement Team Manager

To deliver an integrated resettlement service within HMP Eastwood Park and HMP Styal to include women returning to Wales.

To manage the Safer Wales Resettlement Team. Working in partnership with local Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) to support the co-ordination of gender-informed resettlement services to women. Duties will vary and range from ensuring all custodial offenders have a resettlement plan both on arrival and at least 12 weeks prior to their release and partake in the delivery of group work.

Safer Wales Resettlement Service Job Description

Main Duties and Responsibilities:

• Work with Safer Wales Senior Managers to ensure the strategic development of the Safer Wales Resettlement Service
• Operational responsibility for the Safer Wales Resettlement team in the delivery of all functions in the offender journey in line with the contract specification and targets
• To ensure a full, timely, comprehensive resettlement service to women in HMP Eastwood Park (and women returning to Wales from HMP Styal) including, but not limited to:
o Completion of resettlement plans
o Delivery of gender-informed modular course for women during the last 12 weeks of their sentence
o Completion of pre-release planning for women at HMP Eastwood Park
o Referral to appropriate services that respond to identified needs
• To manage and maintain systems which inform the provision of a full, comprehensive resettlement service to women in HMP Eastwood Park and the further development of the Safer Wales Resettlement Service
• To ensure delivery and coordination of resettlement plan interventions across all pathways for service users in co-operation with prison staff, Responsible Officers and other providers
• To provide support with complex cases and take on complex casework where necessary
• To ensure the service is professional, impartial, pragmatic and focused on getting the best outcomes possible for women in HMP Eastwood Park and women returning to Wales from HMP Styal
• To provide line management, including casework support, supervision and coaching, to the Safer Wales Resettlement Team and specifically the Resettlement Officers
• To continuously develop and improve key delivery areas: training, assessment, mentoring
• Negotiate and work collaboratively with departments and agencies within the prison, supporting constructive working and contributing where required to prison inspections and self-assessment reports
• Develop and maintain strong working relationships with CRC staff and in particular the Responsible Officers who will be responsible for supervising and managing the offenders in the community
• To fully co-operate with prison security requirements in HMP Eastwood Park
• Develop and maintain strong working relationships with a range of key agencies, housing providers, mental health teams, drug and alcohol teams, education providers and other specialist services across the region
• To attend meetings including relevant prison service meetings
• To take responsibility for ensuring accurate, appropriate records are maintained and coordinate reports in line with internal, external and strategic performance requirements. Supporting the Safer Wales Resettlement Team to report quantitative and qualitative outcomes. To record data on electronic data systems such as OASYS, N-DELIUS etc
• To contribute to the implementation of Safer Wales policies and procedures

Job Specification (use this to answer the question, address each point separately )
Knowledge, Skills and Experience

1. Demonstrable knowledge and considerable experience of supporting women who are involved with criminal justice services and the issues that impact upon their lives.
2. Experience of advocacy on behalf of clients to other agencies and authorities.
3. Experience of working in a criminal justice system setting is desirable.
4. Experience of supporting individuals in identifying needs and risks. In particular use of assessment to inform individual plans.
5. Experience of using a range of IT tools to carry out your work, including case management systems, Microsoft Office applications, internet and email etc. The ability to type is essential.
6. Experience of managing and leading teams.
7. Works Proactively: Demonstrates initiative, thinks ahead and takes prompt action to solve problems; completes tasks, overcomes obstacles and seizes opportunities.
8. Applies & Shares Expert Knowledge:Demonstrates the specialist knowledge and technical requirements of the job. Applies skills and experience to perform the job effectively.
9. Client & Customer Focused: Focuses on and understands the needs of internal and external clients and other stakeholders and strives to deliver a prompt, effective and personalised service.
10. Works Collaboratively with Others.
11. Leads Change & Improves Performance.
12.Influences Others & Communicates Effectively.
13. Values & respects others.

Additional Information

This role is exempt under the Equality Act 2010 pursuant to Schedule 9, Part 1. – Open to female applicants only.

Successful candidates will be required to have an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check and successfully complete HMP vetting processes.


Please email a CV along with your answer to the above to
Q1. What are your main strengths in applying for this post? Ensure that you have read the main duties and person specification on the job description and describe how you meet the requirements essential to this post. You should address each point as this will be used to score your application .

Safer Wales Virgin Money London Marathon 23rd April 2017

Are you are looking for a challenge in 2017?

Safer Wales has ONE place for the  London Marathon and are seeking people who would like to take on this world famous marathon to raise much needed funding for Safer Wales. 

If you could send a short proposal to include; how will you raise awareness and achieve a fundraising target to support our services.

We have not set a specific target however we will be seeking a minimum of £500 to cover our costs. 

If you are interested please get in touch Email

Simon Borja 


Safer Wales to protect Sex Workers in Swansea

BBC Wales 17th December 2016

A charity which works to protect vulnerable sex workers is launching a project in Swansea.

Safer Wales' StreetLife project has been operating in Cardiff since 2007 and has transformed the lives of many women trapped in prostitution.

It also encourages women to report cases of violence and abuse, which has led to "hundreds of prosecutions".

Saturday's launch coincides with International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

It highlights the risks sex workers are exposed to every time they take a job.

"We should be focusing our attention on the plight these women are facing and finding ways to support and protect them, not alienating them even further from society," said Bernie Bowen-Thomson, co-chief executive of Safer Wales.


StreetLife works with local authorities, the NHS and other partners. Its van goes out with volunteers a few times a week and offers women support, advice and access to services.

They also run a scheme called Ugly Mugs, where women can report violence. Perpetrators are either described in detail or drawn into an e-fit and compiled for other women to be made aware of them.

The project has been running successfully in Cardiff and is now launching in Swansea, where the charity said there were a growing number of sex workers "who are desperately in need of support," and are often struggling with mental and physical illness.

Ms Bowen-Thomson said: "We want to help more women and we are currently looking at rolling the project out across other big cities in Wales.

"But without more awareness and understanding of the real route of the problem - sexual exploitation at the hands of others - we won't be able to raise the funds and the volunteers we need."

Light a Candle Event 25th November 2016

25th November has been marked by women’s activists and organizations since 1981 as a day of protest to end violence against women. On 6th December 1989,  Marc Lépine shot 14 femalestudentsdead and injured another 10 at the University of Montreal, Canada claiming he was ‘fighting feminism’.  This led toa group of men in Canada launched the first White Ribbon Campaign in 1991, which has led to ‘white ribbon campaign’ charities in the UK and elsewhere working to ensure men take more responsibility for reducing the level of violence against women. In 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated 25th November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The UN invited governments, international organizations and NGOs to organize activities designated to raise public awareness of the global nature of men’s violence against women on this day as an international observance.

 Please join us!  

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Techniquest donates gifts to Safer Wales

Techniquest, the educational charity in Cardiff Bay, has begun its Christmas celebrations and donated a selection of must have gifts to Safer Wales.

The science centre was joined by two of its ambassadors, Casualty stars George Rainsford and Amanda Henderson along with Kinetic Youth Academy as it hosted ‘Techniquest Recommends’. The event began with an exclusive performance of music from Elf the Musical, before revealing its pick of the fun and unconventional presents it recommends should be making it into the children’s Christmas stockings.

Following the reveal of the ten chosen gifts, the centre got a head start on the season of giving and arranged for the donation of thirty presents to Safer Wales.

Rob Keetch, Techniquest’s Retail Manager, said: “The event was a great success, in part due to the great feeling of one charity giving to another. Our visitors absolutely loved our gift selection, and it’s fair to say many of them have already made a dent in their Christmas shopping. We were thrilled to be joined by our new ambassadors, who seemed to enjoy the event as much as our visitors!

“If any of our visitors were unable to make the event and are looking for some amazing stocking fillers, the gifts will still be available in our gift shop during the run up to Christmas.”

Bernie Bowen-Thomson, co-CEO of Safer Wales, said “It was fantastic to be involved with Techniquest for this event. These toys will go to some of the most disadvantaged children in Wales, and it will really brighten their Christmas. The fact that these toys are coming from Techniquest means that some of these children who have never been introduced to science or technology will finally get to enjoy what these industries have to offer.”