Imagine the stress and anxiety of being refused access to vital services because you’re in a prison that’s not in the area you live. And then, finally, after repeated refused requests for transfer to a prison closer, you get word of a transfer – on Boxing Day.
This is often the reality of leaving prison and was the uphill struggle faced by one of our customers, Fraser*, at Christmas time 2019. Fraser was released from prison on 3rd January and supported by New Routes mentor, Margaret.
Margaret highlighted some of the factors that contributed to Fraser’s situation:
Wrong place, wrong time
Because he was in a prison in another local authority area, he did not receive support with housing, benefits or setting him up with a GP appointment. Fraser was subsequently transferred to a prison in his local area on Boxing Day, just one week before his liberation on 3rd January 2020.
No housing or Job Centre staff were in his local office due to the time of year so he was liberated with no appointments in place despite finding himself about to be homeless. Margaret, who had worked with him pre-release, knew about this and called housing in advance and made an appointment for him to be seen.
Fraser was released with no liberation papers which the Jobcentre Plus need when a person has no ID in place. This meant no community care grant, no medication, no Job Centre appointment, no GP appointment and no arrangement for housing.
Our mentors are the superglue that binds statutory services to person centred support, and this is exactly what Margaret did for Fraser when obstacle after obstacle was put in his way.
Alex Neil, MSP for Airdrie and Shotts, met Fraser with Margaret to hear about his experience and the value of the wraparound support that mentors like Margaret provide prison leavers, many with multiple complex needs.
Mr Neil said:
“I am very impressed with the work that the Wise Group is doing under the New Routes Mentoring programme, having seen at first-hand how my constituent has been so professionally and comprehensively assisted.
“This Programme is vital to help ensure we rehabilitate as many prison leavers as possible and provide the support and facilities needed.”
Supporting people with complex needs
Our New Routes Mentors work with customers for up to six months before they leave prison, preparing them for life beyond prison walls. Customers who need support in areas of accommodation, addiction, financial welfare or mental health tend to need to engage with services immediately post-liberation. Of the customers we’ve supported since October 2019, 82% of them needed help in three out of four of these areas (54% needed help with all four).
With 43% of our releases happening on a Friday, our mentors work against the clock to support customers.
Without the support of Margaret, Fraser would have struggled – like many prison leavers do – to visit multiple services in only a few hours after release from prison before they close for the weekend or a public holiday.
Our mentors do everything they can to support their customers through a sea of forms, waiting rooms and online applications – maximising their chances of stabilising their lives and minimising future offending.
Mr Neil added: “I have nothing but praise for the people who are administering this programme and I hope more money will be invested in it as the benefits to wider society are huge.”
If you’d like to work with the Wise Group to support people in the justice system and help reduce the number of victims of crime, then get in touch.