A pilot project which is already having an impact in helping to reduce reoffending, increase employment and strengthen family networks is to be rolled out across every prison in Scotland as the Big Lottery Fund today announces a £2 million award to the Wise Group for the Routes out of Prison (RooP) project.
The RooP project will work with 4,746 short term prisoners over the next two and half years helping them to integrate back into their communities and to stop the revolving door back into prison.
Research shows that employment is a key component to reducing re-offending. Through the ROOP project 782 of these 4,746 offenders are expected to access employment or training opportunities.
The project will also aim to achieve a reduction in re-offending rates between two per cent and five per cent by December 2010.
Big Lottery Fund Scotland Chair, Alison Magee, said: ”This funding will enable a successful pilot to roll out across Scotland building bridges between ex-prisoners and the community following their release. It will recruit ex-offenders who will use their experiences in turning their lives around to help short term offenders in Scotland’s prisons to acquire the life, social and employment skills they will need when they rejoin society.”
Employed by the Wise Group, these ex-offenders will establish a trusting relationship and plan of action to help short term offenders settle back into their community. This can involve meeting the individual at the prison gates and then accompanying them to the housing department, benefits agency, FE college or other support agency.
Following their release many of the offenders will also work with a Job Developer who will identify and help them to progress onto training or employment with the support of the Wise Group - a social enterprise that works with others to build stronger communities and increase job opportunities for individuals.
During the RooP pilot project the Wise Group engaged with 1565 clients pre-release from Barlinnie and Cornton Vale prisons and Polmont Young Offenders Institution. Since August 2006, 798 of these offenders had at least one engagement with a Wise Group employee on release. Of these 798, 151 secured either a job or a training place. This equates to 18.9 per cent over 19 months.
The pilot also showed that over 55 per cent of participants continued with support from a Wise Group employee after their release and at least 70 per cent engaged with the community support agencies they were sign-posted to.
Research also indicates that families are often one of the most critical factors in whether a prisoner re-offends. Prisoners without family support are two to six times more likely to re-offend in the first year after release. The imprisonment of a relative also has a significant impact on their family. There can be risk to housing tenure; financial pressures; anxiety, distress and health problems; rejection and stigma by neighbours and the community; and problems in caring for children.
Today’s Big Lottery Fund award will also enable RooP to pilot a family relationship programme with 100 offenders pre-release who will be supported to re-establish and develop their relationships with their families.
Laurie Russell, Chief Executive of the Wise Group, said: “The Routes out of Prison project will now be able to make a significant contribution to support more short-term prisoners make the successful transition from prison back into the community and to sustainable employment.
“Our Life Coaches will build up a trusting relationship with and prepare an action plan for each individual to make the transition back into their community. We are delighted that we will now be able to offer around 5,000 clients across Scotland a new service to help them make positive changes to their lifestyles.”
Mike Ewart, Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service, said: “A strong partnership has been developed to ensure a collaborative approach to support the transition of offenders leaving prison that will improve ex-offenders’ access to and knowledge about local services. The partnership is delighted that the Big Lottery Fund has recognised the impact that this project can make on individual lives and has provided the crucial financial support to make it happen.”
Today’s award has been made through Big Lottery Fund’s Life Transitions programme which supports people at times of change in their lives – at different life stages and in different circumstances.
Big Lottery Fund Chair Alison Magee, added: “Funded through our Life Transitions programme this project will support almost 5,000 people to find stability in their lives by planning for their release and improving their skills, relationships and job prospects. I am particularly pleased that some of this money will be also used to pilot a new family and relationship counselling service which will support offenders to make the transition back into family and community life.”
The Routes out of Prison partnership consists of: the Wise Group, Scottish Prison Service, Apex Scotland, Families Outside, Criminal Justice Social Work Service for Scotland and the Criminal Justice Areas in Scotland. Additional financial support has been received from the European Social Fund and Glasgow City Council.