Four ways Wise Group mentors are adapting to life through lockdown

In March, people and services across Scotland experienced restrictions on their way of working, as civic leaders fought to curb the spread of the Coronavirus.   

Our work supporting those being released from prison has been delivered successfully for more than a decade, yet it depends largely on a face-to-face interaction with some of the most vulnerable in society. We had to adapt. And wadapted quickly. 

Our New Routes mentors support 1,200 male prison leavers a year leaving all thirteen short term prisons in Scotland. We changed working practices to continue providing high quality, person-centred support to people leaving prison. Within 72 hours, we adapted a predominantly face to face service into a remote-only service. It was compliant with lockdown restrictions and continued provided people the support they needed. 

Read about what we did. In a nutshell we: 

  • Ensured people had money for mobile phones and basic essentials immediate only release 
  • Pioneered liberation packs, containing supermarket vouchers, travel instructions, and contact details, to provide a safety net on releaseThese were prepared in advance and left with prison staff and handed to a prisoners on release. 
  • Ensured everyone considered for early release was offered the service 

Aligning delivery to the next phase of lockdown
As we move along the recovery road mapwe’re revising our services again to meet the needs of people leaving prison. We will roll out these service changes in line with government guidelines. 

Our focus will be on four key areas to ensure our mentors support as many prison leavers as possible and that our customers can engage for as long as necessary, in a way that meets their needs. 

  1. Prison mentoring
  2. Agency visits 
  3. Gate liberations 
  4. Community based mentoring 

Prison mentoring 
Our prison based mentors identify and contact anyone who is eligible for support within the prison. During lockdown, this was done using the Email a Prisoner service, as we could not access the prisons. It was the best option available and worked well thanks to support from the Scottish Prison Service. Prison based mentors now have access in several prisons and are able to contact prisoners in person . This is more effective and more informative.  

Agency visits 
An agency visit is typically the first time a customer and their community mentor will meet. It’s an opportunity to put a face to the name and to discuss the individual needs of the customer. The chances of a customer continuing to engage with their mentor greatly improve when a relationship can be built. Community mentors are starting to carry out agency visits in some prisons and we will be back in all prisons as soon as it’s safe to do so. 

Gate liberations 
One of the most effective aspects of our mentoring services is the gate liberation service. Community mentors meet customers on release to support them in those vital first 48 hours. We continue to prepare our Gate Liberation Packs and we are now able deliver these in person, meeting the customer outside the prison and adhering to social distancing guidelines. Being able to meet in person, even briefly, increases engagement with a mentor in the community. 

Community based mentoring 
Mentors have engaged customers throughout lockdown by phone and by email. Mentors are now beginning to support people in person in their communities again. Customers identified as having the highest need will be met first.  

About mentoring
Mentoring is proven to provide the golden thread between services in society. The 1-2-1, non-judgemental relationship that a professional mentor has with their customer improves attitudes and behaviours towards offending, improves engagement with statutory and non-statutory services, and reduces reoffending. We are well placed to develop the programme to ensure a well-rounded service that meets the needs of those we support, communities and stakeholders.

New Routes Mentoring is a Public Social Partnership, funded by the Scottish Government and in partnership with the Scottish Prison Service.  It is led by the Wise Group, who deliver it alongside Sacro, Apex Scotland, SAMH and Families Outside.

Let’s talk

If you’d like to work with the Wise Group to support people preparing to leave prison, please get in touch. 

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