FEMALE serial criminals will be helped to put a stop to their trail of offending after a windfall of Government cash.

The money will be spent over three years in Sussex to crack down on the number of repeat offences carried out by women.

More support to tackle drug abuse, mental, physical and emotional health problems will be offered as well as advice on finding housing, work and gaining an education.

Time will be spent with offenders living in Sussex and those still serving time behind bars in nearby women’s prisons such as Send, Down View and Bronzefield in Surrey.

Sussex Criminal Justice Board is one of six organisations in the country to win the bid for almost £194,000 from the Ministry of Justice.

The project even hopes to deter women at risk of becoming first time criminals.

Police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne, who chairs the board, said the funding would help put a stop to a cyclical life of crime for vulnerable women and give them the chance for a future.

She said: “Almost half of women released from prison reoffend within a year. We know that many live with a range of complex issues including substance misuse, mental health problems and domestic violence.

“They need specialist support and intervention to improve lives and end the scourge of reoffending which costs the taxpayer £15 billion a year.”

Bruce Tippen, the board’s business manager, said the money was the catalyst needed to “transform” the system.

Justice Minister Phillip Lee said many female criminals have “complex circumstances” and the funding would make the streets safer.

Some £85,000 will be used in the first year to fund research with criminal justice staff and female criminals to find out which women need help and what support would be the most beneficial to stop reoffenders.

This will build on a project already in place in custody centres by police, council staff and Brighton Women’s Centre, the office of the Sussex police and crime commissioner said.

The current system needs “better co-ordination” and more joined-up thinking to work with more women offenders than before.

A spokeswoman said: “We will need to ensure service provision is able to match increased demand and key to this will be designing new models and identifying additional funding.”

Some £52,000 will be spent in the second year and the £56,000 in the final year while the findings are tested out before any changes are made to services.