A dozen programmes across the south are helping to reduce reoffending rates and support people identified as at risk of crime, after receiving a share of £100,000 from a local co-operative.
With retail crime on the rise, Southern Co-op launched its Safer Neighbourhood Fund last year to support organisations in their work tackling the causes of crime – including threats of violence and the use of weapons.
Fourteen organisations across Bristol, Portsmouth, Bournemouth, Southampton and south London were successful and, although some have had to be put on hold, many were able to adapt their programmes during the pandemic.
The projects ranged from rehabilitation schemes for ex-offenders, youth projects for those identified as at risk, probation services, and working with the homeless and/or those escaping addiction.
Gemma Lacey, Southern Co-op’s Director for Sustainability and Communications, said: “The national average for reoffending is 26-32%* – of the programmes that are working to prevent reoffending, many have seen reoffending rates of between zero and 4%. This is an incredible start.
“Around 460 people have engaged with the programmes so far and this has led to increased employment opportunities or development of employability skills, engagement with the local community or wildlife, overcoming personal barriers, improved emotional resilience and strengthened participants relationships with family and friends.”
The 14 successful programmes are run by Avon Youth Club, Changing Tunes, Community Alcohol Partnerships, Dorset Reclaim, Empire Fighting Chance, Faithworks Wessex, Hope Housing Training & Support, Motiv8, Sixty-One, The Bourne Foundation, The Society of St James, The West of England Sport Trust (Wesport), Young Ealing Foundation and Youth Options.
Over the last year, a programme run by Society of St James (SSJ) has enabled 23 ex-offenders to learn new life and social skills to ensure they maintain and thrive in their crime-free lives. Despite the challenges of lockdown, SSJ’s staff brought in members of the community to teach brick-laying, woodworking, landscaping, painting, decorating and training in the skills of using hand and power tools.
This has lead to two of them gaining paid employment, one becoming a volunteer and instructing others, and two of the service users have used their skills to complete work at their family’s houses which has helped to rebuild relationships.
One of the service users said: “I want to say thank you. It [the programme] has had a big part in my recovery and has kept me occupied. It took my mind off things when I have been at my lowest and struggled with cravings. It has made me realise I am not all bad. It’s about being able to give something back.
“It’s not just helped me with crime and drugs but also my mental health and wellbeing. My self-harm has reduced. I think there should be more projects like this to help people stop reoffending. I am proof that something like this can help offenders stop reoffending.”
Another charity, Empire Fighting Chance, has directly supported 3,398 young people across all of its programmes who have been excluded or are at risk of exclusion from school and/or engaging in risky, anti-social and criminal behaviour.
Across its Training with Champions programmes, participants were 88% more confident, 75% were no longer committing anti-social or criminal behaviour, 78% were more motivated and 68% were better behaved in school.
Sarah Kavanagh, HR & Business Transformation Director who is leading Southern Co-op’s Protecting our People programme, said: “Crime is still a very serious issue for us and our colleagues so we’ve been putting a lot of time and money into tackling it from every angle as part of our Protecting our People programme. Sadly, there are times in which it can seem like an uphill struggle so seeing results like these is uplifting and they clearly demonstrate the importance of not just focusing on convictions.
“These partnerships bring together organisations and charities that want to steer people away from crime and act as an essential intervention. Whether it helps them overcome personal barriers or improve their relationships and support networks, it ultimately makes a difference to their lives and gives them a chance to change their futures.”
The Safer Neighbourhood Fund has been co-ordinated with the help of Neighbourly, a giving platform that helps businesses make a positive impact in their communities by donating volunteer time, money and surplus products.