Caritas Care are pleased to announce the fantastic news that our Assisted Community Engagement (ACE) Project has been successful in securing Lottery monies which will be used to support ex-offenders as they leave prison.
ACE has more than 12 years’ experience of supporting people to resettle within their communities after serving sentences and has built excellent links with partner organisations who work together to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Sharon Smith, ACE Project Manager said “We are delighted that we can continue and develop our work for a further 3 years to promote positive attitudes and enable individuals to rebuild their lives. It is a massive relief to those currently using the service who say they would be lost without us”.
ACE meets people in the community and in prison to help them prepare and to identify key areas of support they are likely to need, very often accommodation and basic food supplies are high on the list. The team allocates a key worker who will meet an individual at the prison gate or within the community and start to put support in place almost immediately. We have found that early intervention is crucial in breaking the cycle of reoffending.
Dan, released from Prison to the project in August 2015 said “When released from prison I honestly didn’t know where I would end up or what I was going to do. Without the support of ACE, I would never have been able to turn my life around.”
ACE provides mentoring support to offer advice and guidance, and encourages people to follow up on appointments, particularly with counselling or addiction support.
The Project introduced the notion of peer led support 3 years ago which resulted in the formation of the very successful Men After Prison (MAP) which has become a driving force in providing peer led support and solutions.
Lisa, who has also benefitted from her time with ACE told us, “I have gained more confidence due to talking with people with similar experiences and issues; I could talk openly about my emotions and fears without being judged. The MAP group has given me the opportunity to try new things, exchange stories and my life experiences, which enabled me to open up in an honest way; this is something that I am unable to do with other people or with family…. By discussing problems, that others had similar, we were able to offer advice and support to each other – therefore stopping the struggle we all have. I know now, that one should ever suffer in silence; there are other people to talk to, essentially/especially those suffering from mental health problem and addictions.”
Whilst ACE has supported a number of female ex-offenders, we recognise that their support needs often differ from those of male ex-offenders. ACE is working to ensure that we remain equally relevant to meeting their needs by developing our model of support to reflect their different needs.
Our ACE Ambassadors are service users who have benefitted from ACE support and are now keen to give something back to the community. Our Ambassadors have planned, prepared and delivered workshops to help prevent young people committing anti-social behaviour which often escalates to criminal offences and prison sentences. By sharing their personal experiences and conveying a real understanding and insight into addiction and other difficulties they have faced in life after prison, young people are helped to deter from making the wrong choices. This has proved so successful, that ACE hopes to grow the Ambassador Group over the next three years.
And last, but by no means least, we recognise our volunteers and the generous time they give to provide invaluable person centred support. Without them, we simply could not achieve the successes we do and for this we extend our wholehearted thanks.
ACE are looking forward to helping to support individuals with their rehabilitation back into the community over the next three years of funding, and will continue to work closely with agencies in order to become more sustainable.
To find out more about our project supporting people leaving prison or to become one of our team of volunteers, visit our website www.caritascare.org.uk or contact us on 01772 732313.
Pictured are the ACE team (L-R):
Charles Gayle – Project Worker;
Sharon Smith – ACE Project Manager;
Liz Snape – Project Worker;
Dale Tomlinson – Head of Community Services;
Ruth Duggan – Admin Officer;
Jude O’Conner – Project Worker