Usma Shah recently travelled to the south of England to visit her mother.

To most of us, there would be nothing unusual about that. But for Usma, it was a real achievement.

“I went on my own - I could never have done that before. I would not have been confident enough,” says the young mother, who escaped a life of domestic abuse to start afresh with her children.

She has been attending the Together Women Project (TWP), which helps women offenders and those at risk of offending to turn their lives around.

The project has been instrumental in bringing about a reoffending rate of five per cent among women in Bradford compared with 56 per cent nationally.

Usma was referred to TWP by Bradford Police following problems within her family, who claimed she had anger issues. “The Police thought there was more to it”, says Shelly Summers, TW’s family and parenting support worker. “There was abuse within the home she shared with her in-laws. She was not being treated well, and not given any freedom. I worked with her on a daily basis and she was able to talk things through.”

Steps were taken to enable Usma to leave her home. “She had come here from Pakistan and, despite being here for a while, she did not know about her rights. As soon as she left home she saw experienced what life should be like and how she should live it.”

Since attending TW she has become more confident and empowered. Adds Shelley. “She acted for her children - she did not want them to have to suffer what she went through.”

“Coming here helped me to understand. I feel safe and secure and someone is always here to listen.”

This month a Muslim women’s group is being launched,and Usma wants to empower others with her story.

The TWP operates across Yorkshire and Humberside, from cities including Bradford, Leeds and Sheffield. It moves women out of crime, builds resilience and develops strengths to put them on the path to a positive future.

Among its many services and activities are domestic abuse support, life coaching, legal advice and parenting as well as social activities. It works in partnership with West Yorkshire Police.

“We work with vulnerable women with multiple and complex needs, so we need to build up rapport and trust,” says TWP Bradford centre manager Trish Murrain. “Every women is assigned a key worker - the bond between them can become strong. Many people comment that their lives have changed completely.”

She adds: “The team here are fantastic. They work they do is at times challenging and is always rewarding.”

In particular, the TWP helps women with mental health issues who are in custody or at risk of it. “We have been very successful in helping secure better support within the community,” says chief executive officer of the TWP in the north of England Rokaiya Khan.

“We have begun doing more preventative work to try to stop women from entering the criminal justice system.

Julie has also got her life back on track since attending the TWP. “I suffered domestic violence and had issues with one of my children who was violent towards me,” she says, “I completed the Enough is Enough programme with Families First, and I have been on a confidence building course. I can stand up for myself and am now looking for a job. I now feel that I am someone.”

Women from all backgrounds attend the programmes. “One women was high up in her profession, yet none of her colleagues were aware of the abuse she suffered at home,” says Shelley. “We have professional women who know all the answers yet are still abused.”

The project helped Alison after she was released from prison. . “I was in a very bad place when I came but no one judges you here, or gives up on you,” she says. “The one-to-one support I get is fantastic -I feel they genuinely care.”

TWP helped Julie to find temporary accommodation and she has recently moved from there into a flat of her own. “I would not have got to where I am today without it,” she says.

Julie is now involved with a TWP art project and is looking to help others women. “They would like me to volunteer, which would be great,” she says.

Adds Rokaiya Khan: “Our success demonstrates that this levels of intervention and support really works.”

*Clients’names have been changed to protect identities. Together Women 01274 301470;