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The Wise Group and St Giles have come together to create resettlement support for offenders in England and Wales, with a specific focus on providing services across the framework to support the Ministry of Justice’s Future Model for Probation.
The partnership of these two charities responds to changes in the Probation Service and both organisations have been in talks since April 2019. They have since started working together to design the interventions needed to support serving prisoners and prison leavers and those under the care of HM Prison and Probation Service.
Andy Cross, Director of Services at St Giles, said “Our organisations bring shared values to the partnership as well as our own ethos of putting people with lived experience of disadvantage at the centre of our work. More than anyone else, they know best how to rehabilitate, resettle and reintegrate into society and are the key to inspiring positive change in others.”
Both organisations have a mutual ethos of co-design, involving people with first-hand or close experience of the issues in the development and shape of services that support existing statutory service provision. One successful focus group exploring the design of mentoring, advice and guidance programmes took place March in West Yorkshire and met virtually in May to expand and pin down the key elements of this work.
Hamish Robertson, who leads the Wise Group’s justice services, said “Our mentoring-led approach is proven to provide the much needed ‘superglue’ for offenders accessing services in society. The one-to-one, non-judgemental relationship that a professional mentor has with their customer improves attitudes and behaviours towards offending, improve engagement with statutory and non-statutory services, and reduces reoffending. With input from end users, we are tailoring our service offering in preparation for the Service Categories being procured by the Ministry of Justice – ensuring our combined offer is well rounded and meets the needs of individuals, communities and stakeholders”.
About the St Giles/Wise Group partnership
We are values-led Third Sector partnership that delivers high-calibre services for offenders, empowering them to overcome barriers and take positive steps forward in their lives. Working together, we draw on our combined strengths to create safe, effective and accessible services that help reduce re-offending. We share a commitment to employing trained individuals who have been there themselves, bringing added credibility, first-hand knowledge and professionalism to our services.
Case studies of support for prison leavers
St Giles – support for vulnerable woman at risk of violence on her release from prison
Georgia could not return to her home area on her release from prison because of risks to her safety. She was about to run out of medication for her anxiety and had no benefits set up. The St Giles caseworker was her only source of support.
Georgia’s medication was a priority otherwise her mental health would decline. The caseworker took her to a walk-in where she was prescribed two weeks of emergency medication.
We also helped Georgia access emergency funds so she could buy essentials and also travel to various appointments including ones with her probation officer. We also put her in touch with a food bank.
Her health was a continued concern and the local GP surgery initially refused to register her because of patient caps. The caseworker contacted NHS England to raise her case and as a result Georgia was registered
Eventually, Georgia was housed in permanent supported housing and linked in with local services. However, she thanked us for the support and said that if we hadn’t been there to help her on her release from prison, she would have been totally stuck.
Wise Group - Mentoring support secures accommodation despite global pandemic
The Wise Group mentor received a referral from a Community Offender Manager (COM) advising that a service user would possibly be released at his upcoming court case if he had accommodation. This left two days to find suitable accommodation for someone with complex needs during a global pandemic.
Supported accommodation providers could not guarantee a space in advance for service user on remand in custody. His mentor discussed his needs and risks with local authorities who agreed to provide accommodation, however the address depended on time of release.
Barriers to him sustaining accommodation included not having a mobile phone to contact housing, addiction and poor mental health. His mentor acquired vouchers so he could purchase a mobile phone on release to contact his COM and housing provision. A liberation was pack together with details of relevant additional support services should he be released.
He attended court by video link and was told he would be released. His release would be in the evening and prison reception agreed to pass him the liberation pack his mentor had put together. In it, he found vouchers, toiletries and supporting information including a map to the bus station and bus timetables.
His local housing office was notified that he would contact the “out of hours” so they could have his details and a property on standby. He bought a phone with the vouchers provided to contact housing and was given accommodation that evening. He remains living at the property provided and is very thankful for the support he received.
St Giles – help for vulnerable women to steer clear of negative influences
Jane had recently been released from prison when we came into contact with her. She was struggling in a hostel and experiencing numerous mental health and substance misuse issues.
Her only form of support was a former friend who encouraged her heroin use and sex working and Jane was vulnerable to these influences given the lack of any other support in her life.
The first priorities were to stabilise her accommodation and help her access other services including registering with a GP, helping her engage with probation and sorting out her benefits. We also helped her shop for essentials and budget so her money could last.
She responded well but there was a setback when her former ‘friend’ assaulted her one day when she out collecting her medication. It was vital that we kept Jane moving forwards and away from negative influences.
We helped her manage her anxiety and focus on achievable goals. We also worked on behavioural strategies she could use to avoid any future conflict.
Although still vulnerable, Jane is now in a much better place. We will continue to support her to ensure she has the support she needs in place and keeps engaging with it.
Wise Group - mentoring support secures accommodation for prison leaver
Mr S was allocated a Wise Group mentor and they got to work on completing a personal release plan focusing on his priority needs of accommodation and physical health support.
Before being in custody, he had been declined pain relief and prescribed Methodone. Turning to illicit substances, this swiftly led to eviction and homelessness. His mentor contacted his local housing provider but, due to previous anti-social behaviour, they felt they couldn’t offer him a place to live on release.
With his support needs at the centre of his case, his mentor referred him to safeguarding and social care. A multi-agency meeting followed and Mr S’s application for social care was approved. Prior to his release, his mentor attended his accommodation to ensure suitable adaptations were made to his room to support his needs. And, on the day of release – the most crucial time for many leaving prison - his mentor supported him to the accommodation using a vehicle with wheelchair access for a smooth transition. Mr S remains in his supported accommodation, is free from substances and has access to the care he required.