Young Offenders

The issue

“Young adult women (aged 17–25) in contact with the criminal justice system face multiple disadvantage. They have complex, overlapping needs, with their experience of coming into contact with the criminal justice system underpinned by experiences of violence and abuse, poor mental health, addiction, and having no safe place to call home. The challenges they face are mutually reinforcing and take place in a wider context of social and structural inequalities which shape their lives, including gender-inequality and racism.” (AGENDA Alliance)

Despite falling numbers of children and young people in youth custody, concerns remain that the criminal justice system isn’t responsive to the specific needs of young women and girls and doesn’t take into account additional vulnerabilities that may be connected to offending behaviours.

Whilst women account for a small proportion of the prison population in the UK, their outcomes remain poor. Committing less serious offences, they receive shorter custodial sentences, with over half of women in 2022 being sentenced to six months or less. This can be disastrously disruptive to home life, employment prospects and moving on.

In 2021/22, just over half of all young women in customdy had been in local authority care as a child, and young women of colour are disproportionately represented among the women’s prison poplulation.

In 2022, women made up 29% of all recorded self-harm incidences in prisons, despite only making up 4% of the prison population.

In 2018, the Ministry of Justice published its Female Offender Strategy which aimed to reduce the number of women entering the criminal justice system, have fewer women in custody and create better conditions for women in custody. However, in January 2022 the National Audit Office said this strategy had only made “limited progress” in improving outcomes for women as the MoJ had “not prioritised investment in this work”.

A mapping project published in 2022 by ROSA, showed the small amount of funding awarded to the women and girls’ sector in the UK in 2021 (just under 2% of £4.1bn) and a third of all grants for women and girls-focused activity went to organisations with no specific focus on women and girls. This highlights a lack of prioritisation of organisations tackling complex and systemic issues faced by women and girls, of whom female offenders are a key group.

Credit: Sport4Life
Credit: Trailblazers
Credit: Sport4Life


We want to fund projects that are focused on young women and girls who already have a history of offending or who are at high risk of registering a first offence.

We are looking to support work that specfically aims to reduce the likelihood of a young woman or girl either entering the criminal justice system or reoffending and support them to move on positively with their lives.

Projects will need to demonstrate age, gender, trauma, and culturally responsive approaches to working with young women and girls. We are particularly interested in supporting work that provides peer support from women with their own lived experience and projects that can demonstrate that they have been co-designed with the voices of young women and girls.

In an effort to fill the gaps in support that exist for young women and girls, we want to provide opportunities for new ideas to be developed and new ways of working to be tested. So, whilst we will fund existing projects, we are also interested in supporting organisations to try out new approaches or grow a much smaller piece of work, as long as it can be clearly demonstrated that it is informed by the experiences and voices of young women and girls.

We will prioritise applications that are targeting young women and girls who are care experienced or from Black or minoritised/racialised communities. These groups are disproportionately represented amongst young female offenders and the intersection between them and offending rates is something that needs to be urgently addressed.

The type of intervention we will fund

Due to high reoffending rates amongst women, supporting work with young women post release from custody is a key area of interest. We will support work that takes place in prisons, through the gate and ongoing post release support.

We also want to support work that tries to prevent a young woman or girl from either offending in the first place or helping to change offending behaviour to avoid receiving a criminal conviction. This might be through projects that are targeting those closest to the criminal justice system who have received either formal or informal Out of Court Disposals (OOCD), those who are linked to Youth Offending Team Prevention Programmes, other kinds of point of arrest diversion programmes and those who are known to HMPPS teams or the Police.

Earlier interventions are also really important to prevent girls entering into offending behaviour and the criminal justice system. Proposals that target working with girls in the care system, those known to be on involved in low level gang activity and those who are excluded from school (or are on the edge of exclusion) would also be welcomed.

We will be running a learning programme alongside our funding to help build an evidence base of what works for young women and girls caught up in the criminal justice system. We hope that grantees will be able to use this to bolster their case for future funding and that more widely we can shine a light on areas that are under resourced and underdeveloped.

We welcome applications that:

Have specific outcomes and targets related to at least two of the following key social impact areas; individual development, health and well-being, employability, education, and social cohesion. The proposed project has to demonstrate how these social impace areas will lead to a reduction in reoffending or first offences.

Demonstrate that they understand the wide range of challenges and issues that will need to be addressed to help a young person succeed after being released from a Young Offenders Institution or prison.

Show a track record of either current or previous work with young women and girls and can demonstrate that the proposed project is culturally responsive, and trauma and gender informed.

Show existing work with young people who have been in the criminal justice system is already taking place and can evidence a track record of helping them to achieve positive outcomes. Clear referral pathways from key partners (such as Police and Youth Offending Teams) should be highlighted as part of this.

Funding can only be used to work with young women and girls who have been in the criminal justice system or who are at a high risk of entering it, even if your organisation works with vulnerable young women and girls more broadly. We cannot accept applications where our target group only make up some of the cohort of young people on your project.

Age Range

We will fund work taking place with young women and girls aged between 11 and 30. It is unlikely however, that we would fund a project working across this whole age range.

Types of organisations that we will fund

We will only consider applications from organisations that exist solely to support the wellbeing and welfare of women and girls. Whilst we recognise that there are many exceptional organisations working with a wider group of beneficiaries who provide support to young women and girls, we want to support the women and girls sector specifically with this funding round. Therefore, only organisations ‘led by’ and ‘for’ women and girls will be eligible to apply.

Check Eligibility  

Young Offenders Strategy