By Matthew Johnson from Inspiring Change Manchester
On the 30th March, GMHAN hosted a panel discussion and breakout workshop to explore the issue of Prison and Resettlement, as part of our work to support the development of the Greater Manchester Homelessness Prevention Strategy. The online event, which was attended by 37 participants from a range of different interest groups, was looking at how we can improve the way people who have served their time in prisons transition more effectively back into the community and be supported to break the cycle of reoffending and homelessness which leave people facing multiple disadvantages across our society.
The event brought together a panel of experts by experience, who have themselves been on a journey through the criminal justice system or supported people who have. Each panellist offered their own unique and personal insight of the issues, barriers and potential solutions, and how best to support people before and after they are released through the gate. Workshop participants were then invited to collaborate in breakout rooms to answer two questions:
- What needs to change to make things better?
- What can you or the people you work with do to improve the system?
The session was divided into three sections, each looking at a focus point raised from the feedback and evidence gathered during our first Prison & Resettlement workshop back on the 12th January. Each session opened with input from the expert panel discussion, chaired by Creative Inclusion’s CEO, Matthew Kidd, and focused on each of three key areas:
- Person-Centred Working – what does this mean? What does this look like in practice?
- Peer Support – How to develop relationships before, during and after transitioning through the gate? What makes a good peer mentor?
- Housing Resettlement – What are the current issues? What does good resettlement look like?
Here are some thoughts from the expert panel:
Lily Lewis – A survivor and campaigner of Domestic Abuse who has done her campaigning work over the last three years despite being incarcerated.
“I believe to make prison resettlement more successful we need a person-centred approach looking at overlapping problems such as substance misuse, domestic abuse, financial and budgeting problems. The focus should also be on ensuring housing and wherever possible working towards a job. I also believe you need a strong peer mentor relationship which should start in prison and continuing the other side of the gate.”
Jason Broughton – Inspiring Change Manchester Housing First Engagement Worker, Co-Chair of ICM Strategic Group and original ICM Core Group Member
“Supporting people coming out of prison, I feel people should begin being supported while still in custody, so that when they are released, they already have their peer mentor and a support worker in place, so they can build that relationship from the start. If they’re going to be homeless, we can be looking at the accommodation before they leave prison. I also feel it is important to build a relationship in a person-centred way, always remembering it’s their journey. It’s what they want not what the worker wants. It’s good to have someone working alongside the person with some lived experience. This will help give the person some shared identity and that’s always a good thing. We should be respectful and be non-judgmental. and at all times we should be actively listening to what the person wants.”
Stan Stewart – Inspiring Change Manchester GROW trainee and Prison Reform Advocate with Revolving Door.
“Firstly, I think to improve “Prison Resettlement” we should have a standardised working practice, so anyone leaving a prison has the basics put in place where possible. We should prioritise ID, Banking, housing, benefits and healthcare. I believe HMPS should as part of “Rehabilitation” be incorporating resettlement plans. Every prisoner is on a different journey so each resettlement plan should be fit for purpose, e.g. If benefits or housing are not needed for an ex-prisoner, maybe help around work or training instead. Obviously, this can’t be the same for short term prisoners, they need the through the gate help and I think with the right help in place, the Probation service would/should be best placed to give support to these prisoners. I believe this should all be delivered in a person-centred way, with good communication and clarity of who does what between all the agencies, that needs to be clear from the start, so people know where they stand.”
Below is a feedback from the breakout room discussions and please read here for the rest of comments from our attendees:
“Access to individuals in prison is crucial. Individuals need to be able to own their own resettlement. Values based recruitment, training and performance management of workers is key including refresher training. Caseloads of probation practitioners is a barrier. Make sure individuals providing support know the impact of their actions and have feedback from the individuals on probation.”
This was one of a series of GMHAN focused thematic discussions being held to help co-produce and develop ideas and solutions to create a sustainable and collaborative strategy, to help support people in a person centred, effective and timely way, to prevent them becoming homeless and to support people who are. We will be holding a similar event in the coming weeks, exploring different themes from the Greater Manchester Prevention Strategy.
For further discussions on the national work being done around prison release and resettlement, check out the Fulfilling Lives campaign ‘Set Up to Fail’ and read their recommendations to ‘Stop the Prison Cycle’.
To find out about more GMHAN events, visit, www.gmhan.net/news-and-events.