Caption: CGM CRC’s Dave Ankers and Kim Ives.
Stuart is one of hundreds of prisoners to be supported by a radical new approach to delivering services to offenders leaving custody.
The 35-year-old, from Bolton, was met by his High Intensity Treatment Officer Kim Ives 12 weeks before he left HMP Hindley so she could help him prepare for life back in the community.
Stuart completed a five-year sentence for a string of burglaries he committed to feed his heroin and crack cocaine habit. Addicted to drugs since being a teenager, Stuart had alienated most of his family and following previous prison spells returned to sofa surfing and drugs.
Nationally 64 per cent of adults released from short prison sentences of less than 12 months reoffend within a year. Interserve runs five Community Rehabilitation Companies and to address this ‘revolving door’ problem rolled out its Integrated Through the Gate (ITTG) model in April, following investment from the Ministry of Justice.
Kim, who works for the Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company, met Stuart outside the prison gates and took him to his first probation appointment – with her colleague Dave Ankers – and appointments with his GP, accommodation providers and the Jobcentre.
Stuart, who suffers from acute anxiety, said: “Kim and Dave have helped me. When I’ve ended up being released before I’ve had nothing. I’ve had to move from house to house. Then people say ‘you’ve been inside, have a treat’ and offered me the drugs that got me in trouble in the first place.
“I’m sticking to my prescription. If I can stick at it I’m going to get my first ever flat. That’s keeping me focused.
“Dave is making me keep to my appointments. Kim is great. The housing people also make sure I don’t forget things and are helping me with my benefits.
“Prison is boring. It takes years out of your life. I want to change and for the first time I feel supported to try my hardest.”
Kim worked with Stuart’s family to find him a place to stay while he waited for a room at Bolton House, a supported accommodation provider run by the Riverside Housing Association. He has now been clean from heroin since May 5th.
Stuart was assessed as a prisoner likely to re-offend and so qualified for support from a HITO.
Kim volunteered for CGM CRC before first working for the organisation in an administrative capacity and then applying for the HITO role when Interserve created 120 posts across the 18 prisons covered by the company’s CRCs.
She said: “Being homeless creates anxiety for Stuart and he historically has coped with anxiety by taking drugs.
“The beauty of the ITTG is that I develop a relationship with prisoners while they are inside, but then that support continues in the community. I can therefore build trust and help them make that transition.”
Dave, a specialist in HITO cases, said: “My experience has shown that without the level of support which Stuart has had, the first day post-release almost sets him up to fail.
“ITTG means my caseload comprises only former prisoners who have a high-risk of reoffending, so I am developing a level of expertise which helps me work well with these cases, to work efficiently and to navigate the system.
“Kim’s support in this is absolutely critical. She is a direct link into prison, can get accommodation referrals processed incredibly quickly and provides that link into the community which makes this a genuinely through the gate service.”
Stuart is looking forward to receiving the keys for his first flat next month.
On his first day, Stuart received:
- Transportation by Kim and Emily Murphy at 9.30am from the prison gates to his first appointment
- Funds donated by HMP Hindley chaplaincy to get him a mobile phone
- An appointment with Bolton House
- A food parcel from Urban Outreach
- Bank appointment to arrange sort code and new card ordered
- Mobile phone shop – new mobile purchased with credit
- Achieve – Drugs appointment
- Probation – Dave Ankers appointment
- Universal credit online assessment and set his new email address up
- Support from CGM CRC’s commissioned housing provider Shelter to look for accommodation
- Took Stuart with all his shopping to his relative’s where he slept on their sofa for four weeks until a room became free at Bolton House.