By Ian Ware, head of quality and policy
The Government launched Through the Gate to ensure that people released from short-term prison sentences received support to help them adjust to being back in their communities and to stop reoffending.
The initiative was rolled out in May, 2015, as part of the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme, which made Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) responsible for a range of tasks with all prisoners based in resettlement prisons. The CRCs’ responsibilities included:
- assessing resettlement need
- creating an individualised resettlement plan
- delivery of a range of services to make resettlement into the community more effective and reduce the risk of re-offending
- support service users with housing, retaining employment, and linking with other post-release services.
We run five CRCs, and – like most of the 21 CRCs in England and Wales – we sub-contracted the service to non-profit providers in order to build upon specialisms which the third sector had. Criticism of how Through the Gate has operated has been widespread, and although we have had considerable success at re-designing our approach, it is fair to say that problems have been encountered in extending services to such a large group of people while operating within tight financial constraints.
A new approach
Working with the organisations we commissioned to run Through the Gate (Shelter, Catch22 and St Giles) together with the Ministry of Justice, we have been able to develop a radical new approach to delivering the service which we passionately believe will improve the chances of men and women preparing for release from custody and will help them make that transition from prison life to living in the community.
We have recognised what failed to work in the past, but also have learned from innovative approaches that did achieve positive results – as recognised by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for Prisons among others. We have also striven to genuinely make it a Through the Gate experience for our service users, rather than “to the gate” provision that has all too often been the hallmark of the model we are replacing.
Expanding our staff
To achieve this, we will be recruiting more than 100 staff to run the service, many of whom will be probation case managers who will be physically based at the 18 prisons which exist across our CRCs’ footprint. Those case managers will work with prisoners to complete their resettlement plan on reception into the prison as well as examine any crisis management activities, before then working with the individual from 12 weeks prior to release. However, we will now also be there to meet the individuals when they re-enter their communities to continue that invaluable resettlement process.
Crucially, rather than just filling-in forms and working with prisoners just prior to release – as per the old model’s specification – our staff will be carrying out genuine desistance work, striving to engage individuals, to provide (for example) accommodation, financial, wellbeing and drug misuse support; but also to work on the individual’s strengths to help them make positive change. We are also recruiting staff with specialist experience of working with people with mental health issues so that we can enhance the services and interventions we deliver. This is because we recognise the crucial importance of providing the right support to people with complex needs.
A new ‘high intensity’ role
Our model also creates a new ‘high intensity’ role which will see case managers work with prisoners who are prolific offenders and have chaotic lifestyles. They will own the individual’s case and be responsible for transitioning the individual into their community, providing a level of continuity that previously hasn’t existed. This can only be beneficial to people who fit the classic ‘revolving door’ definition and suffer from being passed from agency to agency. Our staff will be able to deliver short interventions to address offending behaviour, to link the person to organisations that can help them, while also working with them to help them build their positive social networks.
Our model recognises that each of then18 prisons we cover needs a bespoke service, one that recognises the complex patchwork of third sector provision and strives to bring those links to life.
We know that providing stable accommodation is key to helping people make that transition. One final aspect of our model is that we will have more specialists available to dedicate more time to achieving successful housing outcomes.
Hear us present about ITTG
While we know that working with people released from short term sentences is challenging, we firmly believe that our new Integrated Through the Gate Model provides us with the best possible chance of improving the lives of our service users and ultimately of reducing re-offending.
Ian Ware, Interserve head of quality and policy, and Kim Thornden-Edwards, chief executive at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation company will be presenting at ICPA, Montreal on Tuesday, October 23. The conference runs from October 21-26.