PCC cash boost to help prisoners adjust back into the community

04/11/2020

A free service in Sussex, dedicated to supporting those moving through the prison gates and back into the community, has received a funding boost from Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne.

Katy Bourne has awarded £4,000 to the Community Chaplaincy organisation, Ford Forward, from her Safer in Sussex Community Safety fund which was launched in 2013 for initiatives relating to crime reduction and community safety.

Ford Forward’s key workers include a Community Chaplain, a Volunteer Co-ordinator and a Trainer. They offer mentoring to those resettling locally upon release from prison, with the goal of contributing to reducing reoffending.

In the UK, 75% of ex-inmates reoffend within nine years of release and 39.3% within the first twelve months. Trustee Anthony Oehring believes that this can be attributed to the challenges that prisoners face in resettling and re-establishing personal, family and community connections, including linking with statutory services like social housing.

He says: “Voluntary services, like Ford Forward, compliment the range of statutory services available and mentoring helps prisoners gain self-confidence and self-esteem to reconnect and establish life in with the community - if this is successful then it reduces reoffending and reduces victims.”

Chaplain Andy Kerr added: “We are very grateful to receive some funding from the PCC. Everyone at FFCC works hard to support prisoners, alongside statutory partners, through the gate to resettle into their community in the best possible way. This funding will enable our valuable work to continue in and around Sussex, increasing desistance, and lowering levels of crime and its impact on victims and the wider society.”

Of the 39 clients Ford Forward have supported through to release, only one has reoffended and several serial and serious offenders have also been able to resettle successfully.

Simon was a prisoner in HMP Ford and has been in and out of prison a few times over the years. Ford Forward Chaplains helped him during his release in lockdown. They assigned him a personal volunteer mentor who got to know him in prison ahead of his release then worked with the prison resettlement teams and local charities to apply for housing for Simon and to secure him a job.

Simon has since settled back well into the community saying: “I have never been given so much support on release and you have done it all for me and believed in me and my future. Your charity is doing great work. I’m very grateful.”

During Covid lockdown and the introduction of the early release scheme, Ford Forward has seen an increase in referrals and with local prisoner support reducing during the pandemic PCC Bourne is keen to ensure that reoffending does not increase at this time.

Mrs Bourne said: “This is an especially challenging time for people who are leaving prison. Statutory services are not functioning as normal and, with their own support systems being virtually non-existent, they are feeling the pressures of isolation and so are more vulnerable to falling back into bad habits.

“I’m pleased to be able to fund the Ford Forward team who are working with prisoners during the pandemic to ensure that reoffending does not spike at this time.

“They are giving those who have served their time in prison the best possible chance of resettling back into the community and changing their behaviour for the better.”

To find out more about the Ford Forward team visit their website here: https://fordforward.org.uk/