Re-Unite South London
The project works with female ex-offenders who would otherwise be homeless and lose custody of their children on release from prison, and are thus stuck in a “catch 22” situation: upon release a woman ex-offender is generally unable to get her children back from social care unless she has somewhere suitable to live, but is not entitled to suitable housing, unless her children are living with her.
Read our case study about Ashleigh’s story to hear more about this situation.
Being reunited with their children in suitable accommodation is the first key step to resettlement for women leaving prison. However there are a number of other factors which can lead to reoffending, such as substance misuse, mental health problems, unemployment and debt. Re-Unite offers a programme of tailored support to tackle these problems in order to break the cycle of reoffending. As well as a dedicated Support Worker, we offer Volunteer Mentors, who work 1:1 with ex-offenders to offer additional help towards achieving personal goals: this could be anything from building up the confidence to access social activity, to support with budgeting and work skills.
I have had a mentor for about a month now, she has been a great help. It’s nice to have someone to bounce your ideas off and receive both positive and negative feedback, which is useful in my progression towards my short and long term goals.’
The project also recognises the importance of providing support to the children of the women we support and has its own dedicated Children’s Worker to help the children re-establish healthy bonds with their mothers, and to overcome any trauma experienced.
We also offer ‘floating’ support services for women not resident in our accomodation, and have been able to support an additional 3 women and their children in the last 12 months.
Successes of the project so far:
- The project has supported 35 women since its inception, with just one woman re-offending and being recalled to prison, a re-offending rate of less than 3%. This is extremely impressive when compared to the national average of 51% of women re-offending within 12 months of release, or 62% amongst women who have served sentences of less than 12 months.
- 65% of service users have been involved in meaningful activity at the point of move-on from the project. This includes education, training and employment, with three women going on to set up their own business.
- Re-Unite South London has been evaluated to ascertain the cost benefits to society that the project realises. This found the project produced short term savings of at least £5.83 for every pound invested, rising to £8.09 over ten years as a result of reduced re-offending rates and avoiding the need for services including emergency housing, health services and reduced costs of unemployment.
I have worked with Re-Unite and was particularly impressed with the level of liaison with myself as Offender Manager and thought the support offered to women was exceptional. There is a lack of appropriate, affordable and safe accommodation for women leaving custody and it is refreshing to work with a service that is able to offer actual accommodation rather than just advice.
Offender Manager, London Probation Trust