A unique service which helps women who have been to prison start to rebuild their lives celebrates its first anniversary in York today.

The Footsteps service reckons that in the last 12 months it has helped more than 200 Yorkshire women who are on probation begin to reintegrate into society.

They include 19 women who have been helped into accommodation - and 27 who have had debts cleared.

The York-based Footsteps programme is a partnership between national social justice charity St Giles, York charity IDAS (the Independent Domestic Abuse Service) and Foundation, a north of England organisation which works with adults, young people and families at risk of abuse or homelessness.

Footsteps services Manager Kelly Broadbent said women who had been sent to prison or given community sentences faced 'severe barriers' when trying to get their lives back on track.

A recent survey of prisoners by the Ministry of Justice revealed that women reported significantly more problems on arrival at prison than do men.

Compared to men, a higher proportion of women report more self-declared mental health problems, physical disability, drug and alcohol problems, money worries and housing worries.

They are also much more likely to self-harm - in 2019, 335 out of every 1,000 women prisoners self-harmed, compared to 148 men.

To celebrate the programme's first birthday today, the Footsteps team invited some of the women it has helped to York to meet the local professionals who supported them.

Among them was Nicola*, 39, from Scarborough, who came to Footsteps after facing eviction because of financial difficulties and getting caught up in shoplifting.

She said that thanks to the programme she has been able to turn her life around.

Nicola said: “I was about be evicted from my home as I was behind with my rent. St Giles gave me the right advice to sort out my finances and budgeting as well as help with an addiction to amphetamines, helping me set up meetings with Narcotics Anonymous.

"As my PIP (personal independence payment) has been sorted, I’ve been able to decorate and furnish my new flat. Now that I have moved away from drugs, I’ve got a much better relationship with my family. I can’t thank St Giles enough – my case worker Kelly is mint!”

On the Footsteps programme, women work towards training as a St Giles Peer Advisor, using their own first-hand experiences of overcoming adversity to inspire and support other women facing similar situations.

Kelly Broadbent said: “We are so proud that the service has achieved so much in just the space of one year.

"We’re particularly pleased that so many of the participants have gone on journeys to give back to others facing similar challenges and difficulties.”

* Nicola's name has been changed