Share your feedback on the Empowerment Star

Do you work with the Empowerment Star? We’re keen to hear your experience and insights to help us review this Star and improve it for everyone. Take the survey or join our focus groups to share your valuable feedback.


The Empowerment Star is our Outcomes Star for women who have experienced or been the victims of domestic violence. It is designed to be used within women’s refuges or outreach and social services and focuses on areas that are important in helping women who have experienced abuse at home to embark on a new life. We produced it in 2011 with collaboration from Eaves Housing and funding from London Councils.

Why we’re reviewing this Star

An important part of our work is keeping Stars up-to-date, easy to use and as impactful and efficient as possible.

Since the Empowerment Star was launched in 2011, there have been many changes in the sector. We have learned a lot more about the need to be trauma-informed, foster inclusivity and better meet the unique needs of practitioners and the women they support. So it’s important that we review the Empowerment Star in light of this and ensure it is the best it can be.

Creating and reviewing our Stars is a collaborative effort – we couldn’t do it without the input and expertise of clients, organisations, and practitioners who use the Star. With your experiences, ideas and feedback, we can make it as useful as possible for you and the people you support.

Share your feedback

If you are a practitioner or manager who uses the Empowerment Star and are willing to help us improve it, simply fill in this short survey and tell us what you think.

We’re also inviting you to join one of our focus groups on 22nd and 23rd November 2023 so we can hear feedback directly. Simply sign up for the date that suits you. The focus groups are on UK time, but if you use the Empowerment Star outside of the UK and would like to join, please tell us about yourself here.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you and improving this valuable tool together. If you’d like to find out more or want to email your feedback, contact us or email directly.

Scottish Association for the Study of Offending (SASO) Annual Conference 2022

Jim Boreland

I’m Jim Borland, the Implementation Lead for Triangle in Scotland. My role is to support a range of different organisations across the country to use the Outcomes Star in a way that best helps them to support their various clients.

I am also an ex-Police Officer, and following my retirement from the force, I worked for several years in a national charity. Much of the work there was focused on rehabilitating offenders and supporting people within or on the cusp of the Criminal Justice system. As such, I have a genuine interest in things relating to the Criminal Justice system and was keen to attend the Scottish Association for the Study of Offending (SASO) conference on November 11th 2022, which focussed on access to j, in particular, the obstacles to obtaining justice from both sides of the Criminal Justice system in Scotland, for victim and perpetrator alike.  

I looked forward to hearing about the current challenges and learning more about the range of successful recent initiatives and plans to support everyone within society to get access to justice when they need it.

As a result of the recent pandemic, this was the first face-to-face conference in recent years, bringing together a variety of interested individuals and front-line organisations working in the justice arena. The keynote speakers were all high-ranking professionals within their disciplines discussing their personal experiences of the justice system in Scotland. The conference also allowed them to propose some ‘blue sky’ ideas to help ensure access to justice will be available to everyone who needs it in the coming years.

The conference highlighted and celebrated the invaluable work undertaken by front-line services and staff. It was also an excellent opportunity for delegates to connect, network, learn from each other, and share experiences.

Whilst some initial design work had already commenced, Sheriff Principal Aisha Anwar spoke about the various technological advancements developed due to the pandemic, including the use of ‘virtual’ courtrooms and evidence provided remotely via digital platforms. She also highlighted several new procedural improvements, including ‘electronic’ warrants and fast-tracking domestic abuse cases, designed to streamline the sometimes lengthy legal processes. These developments are intended to ensure that the justice system is demonstrably ‘fair’ to all and provide appropriate and timely access to justice for both an accused person and the victims of crime.

The next speaker was Andrea Coomer, the Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform. Throughout a very passionate presentation, she highlighted the apparent lack of diversity in the Judiciary system, particularly in England and Wales, and consequently, the noticeable lack of trust by a majority of the general public, particularly with young people and people from ethnic minorities. She provided several examples of young people being unable to access justice. She posed questions about the suitability of court proceedings when the reality was that the person might be suffering from mental health issues, be a victim of abuse themselves or be disadvantaged in accessing legal representation due to their personal circumstances. Her plea was that ‘legacy’ legal systems need to change as we move towards the future.

The next speaker was Andrea Coomer, the Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform. Throughout a very passionate presentation, she highlighted the apparent lack of diversity in the Judiciary system, particularly in England and Wales, and consequently, the noticeable lack of trust by a majority of the general public, particularly with young people and people from ethnic minorities. She provided several examples of young people being unable to access justice. She posed questions about the suitability of court proceedings when the reality was that the person might be suffering from mental health issues, be a victim of abuse themselves or be disadvantaged in accessing legal representation due to their personal circumstances. Her plea was that ‘legacy’ legal systems need to change as we move towards the future.

The last keynote speaker, Ronaldo Renucci KC, the Vice Dean of the Faculty of Advocates in Scotland, spoke at length about the practical issues faced by defence solicitors, including a declining number of solicitors, a lack of new defence solicitors coming into the field, the capping of legal aid, the increasing amount of work for existing defence solicitors, the rising number of new clients and increased case preparation requirements. These issues are even more significant for cases involving sex crimes, which are very distressing for all persons involved (prosecution and defence alike). He emphasised the right for everyone to have the ability to access justice, and that included obtaining appropriate legal representation. However, this is becoming difficult due to the limiting factors raised, and he put forward several ideas about improving the current situation.

The afternoon session was an interactive session where groups of delegates reviewed scenario’s where access to justice was complicated due to a vast range of legal and organisational processes. Throughout these scenario discussions, it was highlighted that there was still much work to be done to ensure access to justice reaches everyone who needs it – accused persons, victims, and the public in general.

Whilst the use of the Outcomes Star might not at first glance appear to directly link to getting ‘access to justice’, it is relevant when organisations support individuals throughout their journey within the Criminal Justice system.

Clearly, everyone has different support needs from the system, and using the Justice Star could assist with that.

The Justice Star recognises that each person requires an individually tailored plan to support them throughout their journey towards and through the Criminal Justice system. This could include after being charged, post-conviction, in prison and re-entering the community upon leaving prison. These tailored plans would involve having effective supportive networks, supportive relationships and a sense of community which is vital for well-being but also for diverting the individual away from previous criminal activity and out of the Justice system itself.

In addition to the Justice Star, The Empowerment Star assists survivors of domestic abuse in getting their life back on track and dealing with the trauma of what’s happened to them.

The person-centred approach used by the Outcomes Star was very much at the heart of the Panel discussions, where representatives from the Scottish Human Rights Commission, Victim Support Scotland, Scottish Prison Service and Local Authority Social Work, highlighted the need for better action planning and more creative solutions, to achieve more sustainable results irrespective of the person being the offender or victim.

At Triangle, we often discuss the importance of enabling and empowering people by being person-centred, strengths-based and using trauma-informed language. However, as highlighted by most of the speakers, several external factors linked to the Criminal Justice system will directly impact what is achievable by a person or supporting organisation. The most obvious was available finance. It was commented upon frequently that a lack of funding directly affected the quality of service and support that could be provided, significantly impacting the levels of access to justice a person could achieve. In some cases, it was more of a ‘post-code lottery’ as to whether necessary support to access and achieve justice was available.

It was evident, however, that additional money alone won’t fix the problems. The culture of the current Criminal Justice system, being based on traditional processes, procedures and even standards of dress, doesn’t make it user-friendly or even recognisable to people accessing it. It’s like a strange new world they don’t recognise or understand. Therefore, whilst there is a degree of familiarity with using traditional ways, there is also a need to move forward with the times, and several presentations indeed demonstrated a move in that direction.

The conference provided several examples of innovative service delivery developed to meet the demands of a changing society, mainly due to the recent pandemic. These new ways of working will continue to put the individual at the centre of any new processes. As the Outcomes Star has been demonstrated to be an effective tool in determining needs, highlighting gaps in service provision, and providing data analysis to support change, I hope Triangle may be involved in future discussions around this change process.

Overall, plenty for me to ponder relative to the Criminal Justice system in Scotland. I look forward to continuing some of these discussions with existing or new Scottish clients in the future.

Further information

If you would like further information about the Justice Star or the Empowerment Star, please email us at

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Related items:

More about our Stars for the Criminal Justice Sector

International Women’s Day: I didn’t choose to challenge – but that’s the outcome


Sara Burns reflects on the 2021 International Women's Day theme “choose to challenge” in relation to founding a women-led organisation and creating the Outcomes Stars.

She highlights the recently published Change Star, which is designed to help reduce violence against women and being presented this week at the ANROWS conference in Australia.

I haven’t chosen to challenge. That’s not how it feels. Challenge was not what motivated us, as three women creating the effective and widely used Outcomes Star tools, and Triangle, our successful social enterprise. Rather, my response – our response – was always to recognise when something wasn’t working and get on with finding a better way. We never overtly challenged, confronted criticism or found out what the competition might be, we just didn’t accept the status quo and did something different. We didn’t have the time or energy to directly challenge because there was so much call for what we were doing, because it worked for people in a huge range of services. We invested our energy in creating tools that were helpful, engaging, demystifying and accessible. It felt pragmatic and positive and it did challenge. It still does.

Doing things differently does challenge

I was working in monitoring and evaluation of health and social care, particularly addiction services, in the late 1990s when the concept of outcomes measurement first crossed from the States to the UK. I was commissioned to look at what that would mean, on the assumption that it was wholly inappropriate. I concluded that while funding on the basis of blunt, end outcomes was unhelpful, focusing monitoring more fully on the people you support and understanding how change happens for them, could be transformative. Rather than focus on ‘bums on seats’, this opened the potential to listen to people and witness their progress directly and holistically. Further, I could find practical ways to identify and measure even amorphous, internal changes so they could be part of the conversation. That was 20 years ago, and my work won a charity award. I was invited to speak at conferences and widely challenged. I hadn’t chosen to challenge, but I had found a different approach.

We just didn't accept the status quo and did something different.

Creating the Star and Triangle as a women-led social enterprise

A couple of years later, around my kitchen table, the ‘triangle’ of Joy MacKeith, Kate Graham and I were grappling with the considerable challenge of measuring how people change across the wide range of St Mungo’s services. We were faced with far more variables and questions than anyone could possibly be asked in a questionnaire. Out of our grappling arose the prototype for the Outcomes Star, a genuine collaboration and co-creation. Working together was so effective, the three of us formed Triangle. That was nearly 20 years and 40 Outcomes Stars ago. Kate moved on after a few years, choosing new challenges, and recently, we recruited a managing director, a man, but Triangle is still mostly women-led, with a workforce of mainly women. We are passionate about work life balance, having created the enterprise while raising children; we believe people, and especially women, can have meaningful and responsible roles, part time and without working silly hours.

The Star supports gentle, considered and appropriate challenge

Choosing to challenge is relevant when it comes to using the Outcomes Star and challenge is a word often used in Star training for workers. It is a gentle, considered and appropriate challenge. When a worker sits down with someone they support, the Star can help guide a conversation about the different aspects of their life, and the completed Star reflects information back to both of them in an accessible, visual way. Workers need all their keyworking skills to choose when to focus on building trusting relationships, reassurance and confidence and when to challenge someone’s perspective or point out dissonance. The aim is to arrive at a realistic, shared understanding of where somebody is in their journey of recovery or change, so that support can be tailored to what they need and can engage with.

Further, the Star can be used not only for workers to challenge, but to be challenged by those they support, who can use the Star to collect evidence of the difficulties they face and the achievements they make. That can demonstrate powerfully how the service user can take responsibility for and drive the change processes they are involved in. There aren’t many tools out there that provide this opportunity, but by being collaborative, accessible, visual and shared, the Star does.

Creating the Change Star for men – to challenge violence against women

Using the Star to help workers challenge is perhaps particularly pertinent to the new Change Star, being presented as a poster last week at the ANROWS conference in Australia. Developed in collaboration with UnitingCare Queensland, it is for use with men who have been violent or abusive in other ways towards women partners or ex-partners and are in support programmes to change. I lead on and am integral to the development of new versions of the Star, now supported by a small team. I find it completely fascinating to engage at that level in a new sector, listening to people and understanding how things change for those they support. Often, I get to hear from clients directly, and they are always part of the co-creation process. It is rare that I am not excited when we start a new Star. But the Change Star was one of those – our exploratory literature review was not optimistic about the outcomes of these support programmes and it was not a client group I was interested to get to know.

From the first workshop, my views were challenged, through listening to workers who run groups in the change programmes, who are themselves fascinated by what motivates the men and how to enable at least some of them to make real and lasting change. I wasn’t confident that the Star was the right tool, because most versions for adults rely on the potential for self-awareness and honesty, at least as people progress. But it does work. The Journey of Change maps progress from men not recognising or denying any wrongdoing or harm, including some men who are experts at image management, through different levels of acknowledgment and taking responsibility. Towards the top of the scales, men are able to put themselves in the shoes of the women they have harmed and get some understanding of the impact from the women’s perspective. This is key to enabling them to make lasting changes. Not all get there.

The Change Star also recognises that many men who are abusive have also been abused or traumatised. We needed to write the scales to hit the right tone between not colluding with the men and not shaming them, as shame is so unhelpful for change. I was inspired by the workers because they are expert at that, learning when and how they choose to challenge, without collusion or shaming, enabling the men to recognise and build on the positive strengths and values they do have to confront the harm they have caused and how they need to change to be safe for women and children to be around. The pilot response was extraordinarily positive; the Star helped make the change process more transparent and shared, giving men in the programs clear feedback about where they were and their possible next steps.

The vast majority of the Outcomes Stars are ungendered. The only other exceptions are the Empowerment Star for women who have experienced domestic abuse, and one of the suite of Family Stars – the New Mums Star. Others for parents are largely used with women as they tend to be the ones engaged with services to enable their children to thrive, but those and also the Parent & Baby Star in the field of perinatal health mental health equally work with fathers and those who are gender diverse.

Challenge helps us keep learning and responding to a changing world

The Outcomes Stars being out there so widely, naturally invites challenge. This we welcome. We choose to respond to challenge and engage with it as helpful information. The world has changed a lot in the 15 years that we have been developing versions of the Star, and we have learned a lot in developing successive versions, now spanning conception to grave. The challenge includes in relation to gender. For example, we are currently reviewing the first Star we created, in the homelessness sector; one of the reasons to review now is that women made up a very small proportion of the client group when we first developed it in 2006, but many services now support significant numbers of women who are homeless. We are sometimes challenged about the Stars that are gendered, including the Empowerment Star, which we are also reviewing this year. However, in that case it is clear that the vast majority of domestic violence and abuse is against women, even more so looking at serious abuse and death, so while we are open to collaborating on a variant that could be for men and gender diverse, we will keep the focus on women for that Star.

In conclusion, I have enjoyed reflecting on this year’s theme for International Women’s Day. Though my starting point is that I haven’t consciously chosen to challenge, and I’m grateful to the many people who do overtly confront and challenge injustice, challenge takes many forms and is relevant and integral to many aspects of the Star and Triangle. This includes the skilful challenge of workers helping men acknowledge and take responsibility for harm without falling into colluding or shaming. It includes how we respond to those that challenge us as an invitation to look and learn and change and different aspects of the Outcomes Stars and Triangle.


The Change Star was published in 2020 and is designed to support organisations working to empower men in behavioural change. Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety Limited  (ANROWS) is an independent, not-for-profit research organisation established to produce evidence to support the reduction of violence against women and their children. Their 2021 conference was held on 1-5 March 2021 and explored how policymakers, practice designers and practitioners are using evidence to understand, respond to and prevent violence against women and their children.

The Empowerment Star is the Outcomes Star for use with women who have experienced domestic violence. For more information on either Star or to find out more about, and feedback into, the upcoming reviews of the Stars please contact us.