An innovative Lancashire-based project which aims to support people as they are released from prison and go back into the community, has received a cash injection from the Cumbria and Lancashire Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC).
United Together, originally a pilot project commissioned for 12 months until September 2020, has received an extension of funding from the CRC.
Jane Moodie, the United Together Project Lead from Active Lancashire, commented on the good news saying, “This allows us to continue to deliver an innovative, life-changing programme which is having a really positive impact on people’s lives. Participants receive tailored support specific to their individual needs which gives them the best chance of achieving significant lifestyle changes.”
Cumbria and Lancashire CRC Director, Phil O’Donnell said: “United Together have managed to harness some really powerful drivers for change across Lancashire, including people with lived experience of the criminal justice system, and we are delighted to extend our partnership with them.”
United Together, one of many projects led by not-for-profit organisation Active Lancashire, uses sport and physical activity as its main mechanism to engage and motivate prisoners as they are released back into their communities.
The project is a collaboration between a number of Lancashire-based partners and adopts a two-tiered approach to support prisoners both in and out of prison. The first strand, the ‘Pre-release’ offer, sees mentors go into prisons to offer individuals the opportunity to attend fun fitness sessions, they are also given the chance to gain accredited training qualifications in topics such as Mental Health Awareness and Multi Sports Activator.
This is designed to allow for prisoners to build confidence and social interaction skills through partaking in group physical activity sessions, whilst also building trust in agencies who could support them upon release.
The second element of the project, which supports people ‘in the community’, connects or re-connects those on probation with United Together mentors, Football Trusts and other partners whom participants built a relationship with whilst inside. Individuals are signposted through to a number of initiatives that are already running within their communities including:
- Peer mentoring led by the Challenge through Sport Initiative (CSI), a group with lived experience who understand the challenges they face
- Housing, debt and employment advice through Housing Association partners and the employment programme More Positive Together (MPT)
- Training and volunteering opportunities through Football Community Trusts
All of the support available through the United Together project is designed to provide individuals with a joined up or more holistic offer where people are supported by a mentor throughout and talk about behaviour change, supporting people to find new support networks. Physical activity lies at the core of the project as it is proven to improve wellbeing, social interaction skills and increase confidence levels, which could ultimately provide ex-offenders with the positive encouragement and motivation they need to reengage with their communities, get their lives back on track and refrain from re-offending.
The project has been operating for 18 months and thus far has engaged 200 participants, with over a third being supported into mentoring, training and employment. Feedback from participants has been extremely positive with comments such as:
‘I am so happy that I pushed myself to go as it wasn’t as scary as I thought. I will be meeting him again.’
‘I had a drug problem in prison and really didn’t want to go back down that road so opted for help and it was the best thing I did.’
‘I loved football but always had to prove myself being female. This was so good and fun. I got to do what I love but was helped along the way.’
‘This project is so unique and offers a completely different approach to prevent re-offending.’
To find out more about the United Together project, please visit: www.activelancashire.org.uk/projects/united-together