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Vital support for Cornish people leaving prison faces funding uncertainty

Latest News Pluss Positive People 20 July 2022
Konnect

Konnect Communities, which has supported over 500 Cornish people with convictions, thanks to the Pluss Positive People programme, is coming to an end in December 2022. There are calls to clarify future funding arrangements going forward, to ensure this important service continues.

This life-changing work helps men and women from Cornwall as they approach release from prison. This support continues once released, with mentoring, coaching and advocacy support, to help them into education, training, or employment, to break the cycle of offending behaviour.

It is estimated that the average cost for one prisoner to spend one year in prison is over £44,000 per year.*

Since 2019, Konnect have helped over 500 participants. These interventions have led to fewer victims of crime and significant savings to the taxpayer. The aim is to break the cycle of offending through support such as securing stable accommodation and addressing employment needs. This provides Cornish men and women released from prison with the best opportunity to move forwards with their lives.

Each year, Konnect will work with approximately 200 people with convictions, funded by the Pluss Positive People programme. Of those 200, Konnect aims to secure employment for around 80 participants (40%), which Konnect are on target to achieve. This not only means a significant saving to society and the wider criminal justice system, but also means these individuals are better prepared to make a financial contribution to society.

Juliet Vinall Brown, Criminal Justice Team Leader for Konnect, said:

Juliet“Pluss have enabled us to run our pilot project for a couple of years now. This work focuses on reducing reoffending. We provide interventions aimed at stabilising people leaving prison, starting at their point of vulnerability.

“The idea is, that if we can work to build the basic foundations needed for survival in society, such as housing, income and employment as a joint provision, then these individuals will have the best shot at thriving. All too often there are gaps in frameworks that inevitably means the most vulnerable people will fall through and revert to their offending behaviours.”

The process is started with leaflets outlining available support, given to prisoners approaching release. The prisoners can contact Konnect direct via an in-cell telephone service where a dialogue can begin. Members of Konnect’s team are now also able to regularly visit the three prisons in Devon (Dartmoor, Exeter and Channings Wood), which are the closest ones to Cornwall.

Simon Mills, a criminal justice mentor with Konnect, said:

“The earlier prisoners approaching release contact us, the better really, because it gives us the opportunity to get to know them and find out what their barriers are. We can put things in place and come up with a plan prior to their release, so it gives them some kind of focus and confidence to have someone supporting them when they get out.”

Many prisoners face significant challenges on release. Most will not have stable housing, employment nor any tangible family support. There is likely to be a history of mental health and alcohol or substance abuse too. People with convictions are some of the UK’s most damaged and marginalised people, and without structured interventions and support it can be extremely challenging to break long-established offending behaviours.

Vinall Brown added: “We provide appropriate interventions that aim to bring stability. The idea is that if we can provide support that will build the foundations for survival in society, such as housing and employment, then these people will have the best chance to thrive.”

Based on research carried out by Westpoint Research in 2016, which looked at Cornish prisoners, they concluded that there is a disconnect between needs of people leaving prison and the provision of support available to them upon release. Addressing these needs can significantly contribute to meaningful and long-term resettlement into local communities.

Pluss agreed to fund Konnect to deliver in four areas of work for an average cost that would cover front line staffing, some administration and management support. This included liaising with prisons, courts and probation to identify potential clients; addressing an offender’s complex needs; ongoing referrals to Positive People partner, Pentreath, and dealing with any on-going crisis management and advocacy services around issues with benefits, housing, courts and disclosure CV advice.

Emma Westcott, Operations Manager for Pluss, said: 

“We are very proud of the extremely valuable work that the Konnect team has been able to achieve, as a result of funding through Pluss’ Positive People programme. This work is at the heart of Pluss’ ethos and our mantra, ‘no one left behind’. We sincerely hope that Konnect will be able to continue their fantastic work, helping people to rebuild their lives after release from prison.”

The Pluss Positive People programme is funded through the national Building Better Opportunities (BBO) programme, which is jointly funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund. The BBO programme comes to an end in early 2023.

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is expected to replace the European Social Fund, and its funding allocations are subject to local authorities’ investment plans being approved by central government. It is important to understand the future sustainability of programmes like Pluss Positive People, and it is in the interest of the communities that Pluss serves, that the future funding pipeline is clarified.

 

👂 CLICK HERE to listen to a podcast with Juliet Vinall-Brown and Simon Mills talking about the work Konnect delivers through the Positive People programme.

📹 CLICK HERE to watch a short video of an ex-offender, ‘Vinnie’, talking about the support he received from Konnect during and after prison, and the difference it has made to his life.

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