Reconnecting with family and friends is vital to reduce reoffending

22 Aug 2023
In this blog, James Foreman, East Midlands Regional Manager for Ingeus’ Commissioned Rehabilitative Services, discusses the importance of relationships for those trying to build new lives after being through the criminal justice system.

Strong relationships are important to all of us. Whether it’s family or friends, the feeling that somebody has ‘got your back’ is vital when the going gets tough. 

It’s particularly relevant if you are on probation – including those who are just out of prison. If people come out of custody and have nobody to pick them up, nobody to talk to, nobody to trust or give sound advice, it makes what is a really challenging time even harder to cope with. Many people have difficult or complex pasts and if you are isolated with no support there is a greater chance that people will lose their way.

Families provide a vital source of motivation and create an environment that promotes positive behaviour change. Of course, some of the people referred to us by the Probation Service don’t have an immediate family so it’s useful to recognise the importance of other relationships that are available to them. It’s about strengthening the support of whoever is around them.

That’s why a part of the Personal Wellbeing Services we provide for people on probation is called the Family and Significant Others (FSO) pathway. Through one-to-one and group work we offer interventions that include: It really depends on the needs of the person as identified by their Probation Practitioner. It’s a bespoke service where everyone is treated as an individual.

We help people to reflect on their current situation or previous relationships, the effect their offending behaviour had on those around them and look at where it went wrong. It might not be about maintaining existing relationships, it might be about moving on from those that have failed, which can be difficult because a lot of people find it hard to cope with change.

Conflict resolution is one of the biggest areas we work on with people – how to resolve those issues and triggers that cause conflict within relationships and, if necessary, how to move on and avoid making the same mistakes. As well as the connection those on probation have with friends and family, there are two other relationships that we recognise as key to building new lives. That’s the relationship they have with themselves and with our teams.

We know how hard it is for people to open up and reflect on things that haven’t gone well in their lives. Our teams are trained to offer a safe place where people can talk about their past difficulties, and while for some people that may take just a couple of weeks, for others with more complex needs it could take much longer. Everybody is different.

If we don’t get that relationship right then it’s harder for them to feel comfortable and be honest to work on those areas of their own personality – their inner demons, perhaps – that have led them to where they are.

Our FSO pathway is delivered with our partner organisation PACT – a charity that works to transform the lives of prisoners and others with criminal convictions. Its front-line team has a range of experiences on which to draw as they build that vital bond of trust with clients, such as having been through the criminal justice system themselves or, for example, relationship breakdowns. It’s these shared experiences that give them empathy towards the people we are helping.

PACT’s Servicer Manager for this region Wayne Thackwray tells me: “Nearly everybody who comes out of prison has a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression, to varying degrees, but they all want to reintegrate into society and link in with friends and families.

“Some of those from broken homes will find that extremely difficult to do but there is always somebody somewhere that can help – it might be an uncle or a cousin or a family friend who takes them under their wing. 

“We work across 10 areas of support, with poor communication skills being one of the most common barriers, as well as finance and drug or alcohol dependency.

“Parenting is another – a father coming out of prison may have only seen their child through visits once or twice a month, so they need help to become a dad again.

“You need a stable foundation: a house, a job and a friend and if you’ve got those three then you are going to be OK in society. Working with Ingeus means we can provide a complete package to get them back on track. 

“We get lots of positive comments. Clients often say, ‘I didn’t want to start this course – I can communicate OK and I’m fine as a parent’. Then they say, ‘Do you know what? I wasn’t very good at communicating and I’ve certainly got stuff to learn as a parent! Now I can communicate better with my partner and my children.’”

It's important to give people the belief that they can change their situation and helping them to turn their lives around with the support of strong relationships benefits the communities around them and improves the safety of society as a whole.

Ultimately our aim is to reduce reoffending and we know that reconnecting with families or having other people in their lives who will look out for them has a major role to play. One of our Personal Wellbeing Advisors used to be a salesman and says he still feels like a salesman, but now he’s selling hope, confidence and belief.

I think that sums up pretty well what we are all about.

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