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1.2 Sisters Inside – Service & Program Evaluations

Sisters Inside – Service & Program Evaluations

The Sisters Inside Health Support Program (HSP) was funded by Queensland Health as a 2 year pilot based in both Brisbane and Townsville, in 2017-18. The pilot aimed to provide intensive support to improve the health and wellbeing of 2 main groups of women (and their children) – women immediately post-release from prison, and other criminalised women with complex health needs.  This independent evaluation found that the program had been highly successful in meeting the needs of its 109 participants (67% of whom were Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women).  Despite the fact that 66% had experienced homelessness during their involvement with the HSP, rates of self-harm and return to prison were significantly lower than expected for this cohort.  Drawing on case studies, the evaluation highlights the importance of support as intensely, and for as long, as the woman herself wants it. It examines the different types of support that women found useful – everything from health information; to transport assistance; to practical and emotional support; to systems navigation and advocacy; to help managing complex treatment regimes; to help with form filling.  The evaluation also made recommendations related to how prison and community-based health services could improve post-release continuity of care for criminalised women.

The Sisters Inside Crucial Connections Program is funded as a Commonwealth Reconnect service.  The program works with homeless and at risk young people impacted by criminalisation – their parents’, their own or both.  In preparation for this evaluation, Reconnect workers completed comprehensive data sheets for each of the 68 young people who had been involved with the program over a 3 year period (2013-16). Approximately 60% of participants were Aboriginal and 10% were from other CaLD backgrounds, at least 50% had disengaged from mainstream education before age 16, 37% had experienced child protection intervention in their lives, 29% had children or were pregnant, 79% reported mental health issues and 93% reported a history of violence.  The submission includes comments from young people themselves, and 7 case studies which demonstrate the success of the Sisters approach with these highly disadvantaged young people.

Quixley, Suzi (2011) How We Do It: Diverting Women from Prison (Evaluation of the Sisters Inside Special Circumstances Court Diversion Program), Sisters Inside, Brisbane. (32 pages)

This independent evaluation examines the remarkable success of this program in diverting women from prison.  Working closely with the (then) Special Circumstances Court (SCC), the Sisters Inside program was available to all women appearing before the SCC. Over a 3 year period (2007-10), only 9 of the 240 program participants returned to prison for new ‘offences’ and 239 participants had a reduced rate of ‘offending’. Approximately 30% of participants were Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women, and all participants had experienced mental health issues and/or homelessness. The evaluation details critical success factors and cost savings associated with the program.

Sisters Inside (2007) Evaluation Report: A Place to Call Home Pilot Project, Sisters Inside, Brisbane. (86 pages)

This evaluation documents the findings of an 18 month pilot funded through the Demonstration Project Fund of the National Homelessness Strategy in 2006-7. The project worked with a total of 229 women (of whom 86 were Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women).  It trialed and evaluated Sisters Inside’s emerging service delivery model (then called Planned Support) and its effectiveness in addressing the impact of homelessness on women being released from prison in SEQ and NQ.  It used Participatory Action Research, alongside direct support services for women being released from prison in SEQ and NQ, to actively include women in assessing the model’s viability.  The Evaluation Report includes an improved model of service and a variety of new practice tools for working with women affected by homelessness.