The Changing Directions theme has worked in custodial settings, approved accommodation and the wider community to deliver services to sex offenders. This has been a challenging component of the IMPACT project, but one that has made valuable and innovative achievements.
Specific achievements and learning outcomes
The Self-Employment Training Programme has delivered real outcomes for its beneficiaries. Six businesses are trading as a result of the project, and others may follow after their release or resettlement in the community. The Self-Employment Training Programme has developed a new option for the resettlement of sex offenders. The service is also highly transferable to the wider prison population.
A Risk Management Model has been developed that is effective in enabling innovative interventions to be delivered to sex offenders. This tool has a number of features that have implications for future delivery. The model is highly transferable and has the potential to be adapted to allow other new interventions to be piloted with this beneficiary group. It is extremely important to consider risk when delivering any support to sex offenders. The model provides a basis from which decisions can be made regarding the suitability of interventions.
Transferability of the Risk Management Model is enhanced because of its foundations in existing risk assessment tools. This means that the approach is highly transparent and usable by a wide range of practitioners within the criminal justice sector.
Ongoing risk management has been facilitated through the Risk Management Model. Delivery staff and partners have been clear on risk factors in relation to each beneficiary. Risk has been continually reviewed to ensure that the process of developing a business plan does not lead to higher levels of risk being accepted. Risk management has been coordinated through the beneficiary’s offender manager, so interventions have addressed risk factors through the most appropriate and accountable individual.
The case conference has proved to be an essential element of the approach to risk management. This has coordinated all partners working with an offender and established protocols for each intervention. The case conference means that all beneficiaries are treated individually according to agreed risk factors. The partnership approach established through case conferences has led to transparency and improved exchange of information.
Mentoring in the community
Changing Directions has introduced an innovative style of mentoring sex offenders in the community. The methodology that has been adopted includes the following key features:
- The essential role of the Circles Coordinator in the mentoring process. The primary function of the coordinator is to ensure effective communication between all parties and to maintain the position of the offender managers at the heart of the process.
- ‘Dual mentoring’ involving at least two (normally three) business mentors allocated to each beneficiary. This means that the approach is more robust, as the beneficiary is less able to manipulate the situations they are in. The mentors can assess each other’s behaviour, as well as that of the beneficiary. This means that the beneficiary receives support that is appropriate, and risk concerns are relayed back to the Circles Coordinator and the offender manager.
- Objectives set that give a clear structure and purpose to mentoring arrangements. All participants, including the beneficiary, need to agree to aims and objectives, such as improving social skills, developing financial planning or gaining employment. Objectives allow volunteer mentors to select appropriate activities and help the beneficiary to gain from these experiences.
Changing Directions has delivered a holistic approach to resettlement support through well-timed interventions. The project’s activities are delivered both in a custodial setting and in the community. Risk management tools are used to engage with beneficiaries at an appropriate time during a sentence, and activities are provided to motivate the beneficiary and help them develop plans for resettlement. Mentoring and post-release support services complete the package of support through community-based provision.
Self-employment support meets the needs of some prisoners within this target group. Changing Directions has identified, and delivered services to, a number of sex offenders for whom self-employment offers a good opportunity for resettlement. The ‘Barriers to Employment’ research from the University of Manchester highlighted that this would be an effective approach; this has been demonstrated through the experience of Changing Directions. Positive impacts have been achieved in motivating beneficiaries and providing them with plans and skills to resettle after release.
However, the proportion of the entire prison population for which this will be a viable option is relatively small. Self-employment-related support does not provide a solution for all sex offenders. Prisoners for whom this support will be appropriate require an existing level of aptitude and motivation. As the target audience for this type of support is relatively small, the design of projects to deliver it must reflect this. Projects must be able to target support at those who will genuinely benefit from it.
There is a need to increase awareness of self-employment and enterprise as an option for prisoners. Resettlement regimes need to become more aware of this as a mechanism for working with offenders, including those who have been convicted of sex offences. There is a high level of demand for enterprise support amongst the wider prison population. Although Changing Directions was well suited to meeting the needs of its target group, the activities were highly transferable to other offenders. Self-employment training courses were piloted with other groups of offenders (Category D and women) and the level of take-up and motivation was high. This enhances the recommendation that self-employment and entrepreneurship should have a clear place on the agenda for resettlement support services in custodial settings. The models of delivery developed by Changing Directions are highly transferable and should be used to pioneer this approach.
An aspirational target should be to establish an ‘academy’ for self-employment and enterprise within a custodial institution. This could contain a library of resources and a process whereby prisoners could book one-on-one sessions with a business adviser or a member of support staff who could provide research services for a business plan. The academy should be linked to educational hours in a prison’s regime to obtain usage of ICT resources (Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel). An ‘academy’ would allow a prison to deliver enterprise support across the whole institution, and thereby improve awareness of entrepreneurship amongst all staff.