A PROJECT that supports vulnerable sex workers off Swindon's streets has been awarded a £151,000 grant by the government.

The Nelson Trust is one of a dozen organisations across the country to have been given a slice of a £3.3m pot by the Ministry of Justice.

The charity, which works across Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset, said the cash would go towards counselling sessions. It will help women at risk of committing offences, many of whom are victims of domestic abuse.

“This funding will enable us to enhance the support we offer to effectively divert women away from the criminal justice system," said Niki Gould, the Nelson Trust's head of women's community services.

"We will only reduce offending if we address women’s underlying needs in a trauma-informed way and recognise that many women are often victims themselves."

The new funding follows the publication of the government's new strategy to shift the authorities' focus away from sending vulnerable women to prison and instead rehabilitating them in places like the Nelson Trust's women's centres.

Edward Argar, justice minister, said:“I am delighted to announce the allocation of the first wave of funding and hope it will pave the way for vulnerable women across the country to receive the additional specialist support they need.

"Evidence shows short sentences often fail to break the cycle of reoffending and we have set out clearly in our strategy a desire to divert women away from custody wherever possible.

"Expanding these essential services will help break the cycle of offending and prevent further victims.”

The Nelson Trust has also been awarded £172,000 to help fund a new women's centre in Bridgewater.