Thanks for stopping by at the New Leaf Initiative – we value all support from the local community, businesses and anyone else who shares our vision. It is great to be here, unveiling our new blog whilst at the same time telling people about our big news!
So, what exactly is our vision I hear you ask; Its quite simple really. We support offenders away from crime and into education, training and work using the power of people who have been there themselves. Our vision is that by sharing our experiences, hope and insight we will help others to see that change is possible. We do this by challenging negative behaviours and instilling positive ones through mentoring, Introducing work and accredited training and by using our micro-businesses to embed learning which has often started in the Criminal justice system. Not only does this process help our mentees – it is proven through research that the benefit is felt by the mentors too, much the same way as it is for example within Alcoholics anonymous. This furthers people from crime even more and can often be the final stage of the healing, rehabilitative process, where shame can be wiped away and replaced with feeling of pride, achievement and self-belief, allowing people to keep moving forwards.
My hope is that my own experiences and those of our volunteers and mentees have the ability to show the local community a few things that we know to be true. For example, did you know that approximately 12 million people in the UK have a criminal record? That 97% of people in custody would like to desist from crime? That 68% of prisoners believe having a job would keep them out of trouble in the future? This latest figure is backed up by data which suggests ex-offenders who find employment are 40-50% less likely to commit further offences. So, if we know this in our Great Nation, why do we still have almost 1 in 2 prisoners reoffending within the first 12 months? It has been clear for a while that something needs to change…
And it is starting to. Slowly.
Michael Gove the Justice secretary, has moved away from the punitive rhetoric voiced by his predecessor, Chris Grayling and David Cameron himself delivered a speech regarding prison reform only a few weeks ago – the first in 20 years by a British prime minister. In that speech he recognised the fact that almost half of all prisoners have mental health issues, that many have suffered abuse, trauma, violence and neglect, that many want to change, but don’t have a clue how to due to poor education and few credible role models coupled with a sometimes corrupt system and fewer staff/services/opportunites due to the cuts. How do any of us know how we would have turned out if we had been born to a different family, or a different post code?
I have a young guy I work with, he is one of 8 children born out of a drug and drink addicted mother and father. No-one works in the house and whilst he was in prison, his brother sold all of his clothes. He got out of prison, determined to change his life and start some education but on release, felt unable to attend because of his personal situation of living in a hostel, having no money or family support or structure. He fell-out with his girlfriend and it all got too much, at 22 he took an overdose at his youth hostel. Whilst in the mental institution he realised how chaotic things had gotten and resolved to get out and get a job to work his way out of his situation. He has found work and support through New Leaf, joined a gym, got a flat and now engages with different agencies. One day he hopes to become a youth mentor himself. In his words, people like him need ‘Goals, someone who will listen and care and opportunities.’ Without these things in place, he would undoubtedly keep drifting, costing the system a small fortune and leaving a trail of emotional and physical damage.
That’s what we provide – opportunities for people to grow from people who genuinely care and can relate and who are trained to get people out of their comfort zones.
Talking of which…
Our big news!
We are delighted to announce that we are through to the finals of the #PeoplesProjects, a competition run by ITV news and the Big Lottery fund which will see three out of the five shortlisted win £50,000 to make a difference in their local community. This is an amazing opportunity for us, just out of our first year since forming in 2014.
We will be featured on ITV news at 6pm on the 3rd March or online from Monday the 29th February and we are calling out for as many votes as possible!!
If we win, we will use the money to fund a warehouse with microbusinesses within it to directly employ ex-offenders in order to raise aspirations, embed a working ethos, upskilling and raising self-esteem. We will have a base to provide support with practical and emotional issues arising in the resettlement period from people who are level 2 trained mentors and we will contribute a percentage of profits to victim support charities. We will then match our people with one of our employers such as Virgin trains or a local business we may be supporting through labour shortages or expansion.
We find that this process is far more empowering and life-changing than any behavioural course and our results prove it with over 57% of our clients being supported into work or volunteering opportunities.
If we can provide a safe place for people to go and be busy in a positive way once they have left the criminal justice system behind them, where positive peers can be accessed for advice, far away from negative friendships closer to home; If we can pick them up at the gate and help tackle the fact that many leave prison with no more than a £46 discharge grant which must last up to 6 weeks before any benefit payments begin by paying them for their productivity in a work environment with rules and expectations, rewarding good behaviour and incentivising more of the same, then doesn’t it make sense to do that?
Whatever your personal beliefs on crime and punishment, the current system isn’t working and so we must look to the empirical research and the countries which are reducing reoffending rates down to 25% or less as well as our own more innovative practices happening in the voluntary sector. New leaf promises to contribute fully to the ongoing research in the field in the hope that we can truly begin to track peoples rehabilitation out into the community.
Please take the time out to vote for us and help us to focus on the potential of people rather than the pasts of people, it is there the magic happens and people manage to finally turn over a new leaf…
To vote for the NEW LEAF INITIATIVE EMPLOYMENT PILOT, please visit WWW.PEOPLESPROJECTS.ORG.UK and follow the voting page instructions there.