Interrupting cycles of reoffending – through trusted partnerships

How can we effectively interrupt cycles of repeat offending and in doing so create spaces where appropriate interventions can be co-ordinated by the Probation Service and other partners including the Voluntary and Community Sector?


Working with Probation

People who repeatedly cycle through the criminal justice system (CJS) are often identifiable as having multiple complex needs. Many have repeated contact with the police, courts, prison, and the Probation Service.  This can present acute challenges for people who may be homeless, use substances and experience poor mental health, as, due to the instability in their lives and the stigma they often face in services, they find it difficult to get the support they need.

By working closely with Probation colleagues throughout the lifetime of the project, Fulfilling Lives workers were able to evidence three key areas where creative and flexible partnership working helped to facilitate smoother transitions and longer intervals of consistent support in the community for clients. The areas focussed on in the Creative Practice report were:

1) flexible approaches around breaches allowing access to healthcare and housing interventions,

2) co-ordinated pre-release planning through prison in-reach and meeting clients at the gate, and

3) trauma and psychologically informed approaches to working.

Trusting Relationships are Key

Developing creative and flexible approaches to supporting clients with multiple complex needs requires professionals to establish relationships built on trust. Trust in others’ knowledge and expertise, and trust in others’ professional judgement. It is when we have created these trusting relationships that we can start to bring more creative thinking on how best we can work together to provide support to clients with multiple complex needs to ensure the client has the best opportunity for a positive outcome.  This flexibility around breach for Fulfilling Lives clients was predicated on Probation Officers and Fulfilling Lives frontline workers having professional relationships based on trust in one another’s area of expertise.

To Breach or not to Breach (that is the question?)

This can be a difficult decision for Probation Officers to make. In our report, we identified several examples where Probation Officers took thoughtful and considered approaches when working with Fulfilling Lives clients, striking a balance between providing support, as well as ensuring compliance with the relevant licence conditions/order requirements. The use of professional judgement from Probation Officers to not breach some individuals and take a more person-centred approach has had positive outcomes. Allowing clients’ relationships with community support services to remain more stable, bringing continuity of support and space to follow through on planned or preventative interventions to reduce reoffending and break the cyclical nature of imprisonment.

When Trusting Relationships Lead to Good Modelling

Fulfilling Lives and Probation jointly supporting clients within a framework of trauma informed practice has enabled both services to reflect similar therapeutic approaches when considering compliance to licence conditions. Fulfilling Lives workers were able to focus on building trusting relationships with clients who have experienced complex trauma and who are typically regarded as hard to reach or who are experiencing multiple and long-term barriers to treatment and appropriate support, leading to improved engagement and outcomes. It has been encouraging to see that this level of insight has also been demonstrated by some Probation colleagues enabling creative, trauma informed work to take place. Again, we can see that this flexible approach to compliance comes from a place of professional relationships based on mutual trust. Probation being able to trust Fulfilling Lives workers to fulfil aspects of the licence requirements requires a level of trust in each other’s expertise and judgement, ultimately resulting in a more positive outcome for the client.

Fulfilling Lives South East View

As workers supporting clients in the CJS we need to be continually asking ourselves how we can work in a more flexible way to achieve better outcomes for clients with multiple complex needs.

Trust between professionals to take positive risks is an important aspect of flexible working to achieve better outcomes for the client. When you trust professional colleagues, you have confidence in their integrity and their abilities, and their agenda and capabilities. Ultimately trust creates spaces where ideas can be shared and developed and resistance to change can be overcome. This has applied to both the approach taken by Fulfilling Lives as well as that of Probation. The kind of trust that was established between Fulfilling Lives and Probation Officers took time and effort to develop.

The challenge will be how can we create opportunities for greater partnership working, exposure to specialist training, creative interventions and reflective spaces within already stretched teams that are supporting increasing numbers of clients with complex needs.

The solution must be to take a broader, system-wide perspective and draw on resources outside as well as inside Probation services. By strengthening partnership working, we can hope to build greater capacity in the system to support individuals more effectively and ultimately enable more individuals to move away from cycles of reoffending.


Authors: Alan Wallace, Sandra Sylvester

Should you wish to find out more about our partnership work or our systems change efforts, please contact:

Alan Wallace, Systems Change Officer: alan.wallace@sefulfillinglives.org.uk

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Working with the DWP (not against them)

Using co-production as the foundation to drive positive change for people with multiple complex needs.


Co-Production and driving change

Brighton Jobcentre Plus (JCP) is not known for its inviting exterior or the promise of fond memories for those who cross its threshold. Its brutalist form sits stoic and unforgiving next to the Law courts and a stone’s throw from Brighton Police Station. The three front-mounted security cameras cast a suspicious eye over all who enter. Over the past 7 years, working with people with lived experience has taught us that approaching the Brighton Jobcentre can leave people feeling, nervous, fearful, judged, and powerless. For locals, Brighton Jobcentre has not – historically – conjured images of warmth, compassion, or community.  Well, that’s changing.  Right now.  Not the exterior though, sorry!

The Fulfilling Lives South East (FLSE) partnership with the Brighton Jobcentre began in the summer of 2019.  From the beginning, Fulfilling Lives (FL) project staff and volunteers worked together with Brighton JCP management to design a Mystery Shopper exercise to evaluate how the Brighton JCP staff engaged with customers presenting with multiple complex needs. As well as this we assessed the building environment with the aim of understanding how at times the Brighton JCP could have a confusing and negative impact on some of the service’s most vulnerable customers.

To assess the service at its most authentic, Fulfilling Lives and Brighton JCP management decided it would be best to conduct the Environment Assessment and Mystery Shopper evaluation covertly. Without informing the staff. Yep, that happened.  This decision – made at the start of our partnership – shows the humility of our local DWP partners and their willingness to address any power imbalance; it was a risk to assess their own service without informing their workers, it was a risk to partner up with a small project to help them do so.  Lived experience volunteers and FL staff took part in planning the mystery shops, writing character biographies, and acting out the roles. The environment was assessed for its ‘Psychologically Informed’ design, which includes highlighting potential triggers that might hyper-arouse visitors with complex trauma histories, as well as areas of comfort. The FL project team presented the findings and recommendations from both the Environment Assessment and Mystery Shops to the whole Brighton JCP staff team.

Despite some staff understandably feeling displeased at being kept in the dark and the unforeseen impact of coronavirus and the immense pressures and challenges that have come with it, the Brighton JCP team have stayed with us and continued to work as equal partners towards our common goal of improving the system for those customers with multiple complex needs.   

Following the evaluations, working groups were setup with JCP and FL staff and volunteers to discuss the mystery shopper and environment assessment recommendations and how they could be translated to real change.  Due to having practically zero budget to work with, there was discussion of JCP staff donating their own personal items, such as cushions, to make the environment more welcoming. This commitment on such a personal level is worlds away from the impression many have of the Jobcentre as a cold institution. Art from the local Brighton & Hove Recovery College was hung on the walls, security guards were repositioned to appear less intimidating, toilet access was made easier, a reception desk was added, staff were given relevant additional training, private safe rooms were made available, and more. Fulfilling Lives went on to deliver workshops and webinars to over 350 JCP staff. And produce an eight video training series with lived experience volunteers to support the JCP staff to work more effectively with customers living with multiple complex needs. 

Instead of two organisations trying to further their own agendas, we wanted to embark on this relationship in the spirit of co-production; a single team made up of individuals with varied skills and experiences setting out to achieve a common goal.  As organisations, we are both working to make life easier for people who are struggling.  By working together instead of digging our heels in and fighting our respective corners, we have built a relationship of trust and reciprocity, where we understand each other’s roles, responsibilities, capacities, and capabilities.  With this attitude, the third-sector, local government, and people with lived experience have come together to create positive, social change, the influence of which has the potential to spread far and wide.

Coming up

In the next instalment of this blog series, we will hear more from the DWP managers at the heart of this partnership on how they leveraged the learning from this collaboration to drive the change internally.


Author: Alan Wallace

Should you wish to find out more about our partnership work or our systems change efforts, please contact:

Alan Wallace, Systems Change Officer: alan.wallace@sefulfillinglives.org.uk

Or

Rebecca Rieley, Systems Change Lead: rebecca.rieley@sefulfillinglives.org.uk

For more information sign up to our newsletter:

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Making Systems Change Stick   

What are the ingredients that can generate the momentum to make systems change possible?


First Steps

What made the local Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) managers agents of change? Are the DWP managers that Fulfilling Lives South East work with systems superheroes? The answer, unfortunately, is ‘no’ they are not. Sorry! But they are the type of people that are in short supply.

As systems changers there are signs, we should be on the lookout for so we can recognise when we’ve landed upon the ingredients required for successful and positive systems change. We need people who are willing to take a risk, people who can sit comfortably with having critical friends, where objective reflection of practice is understood as vital to the process. We wouldn’t call it a leap of faith, but we do need people who are open to the concept of change; people who understand the value that lays in the journey as well as the outcome.

Until people like this encounter an opportunity to exercise this instinctive attitude to give it a go, organisations all too often are on a set course. These are the people who act like hinges shining light into dark corners and forgotten corridors, enabling organisations to pivot and develop new paths and ways of looking at service provision.  

When we do find these people (they’re out there!), it leads to the types of relationships that encourage and motivate others to jump aboard. And ultimately, ushers in positive change of the nature achieved through the Fulfilling Lives South East and the DWP partnership.

The first stages of working with the DWP

Once we have realised that we have identified the necessary ingredients, how do we as systems changers seize the moment and start to cultivate the ground?

Creating Partnerships

Fulfilling Lives’ job is to help key stakeholders and potential new partners engage with service and systems challenges that have an adverse impact on clients with multiple complex needs accessing or participating with their service. In doing so, we can create a space where honesty and trust can be established. Working collaboratively in this way can shape a new vison of what the future could look like.

Simply put, we want to define the problem together and from this set out ways to solve challenges. In the case of the FLSE and DWP partnership we wanted to answer two questions:

  • How do we successfully and meaningfully promote and embed Trauma Informed Practice and, for the organisation to understand more coherently the support needs of customers with a range of complex health and social issues?
  • How do we provide staff teams with the right support, tools and, education to build confidence and resilience to safeguard staff wellbeing?   

Now that we’ve created a space where traditional thinking can be re-evaluated, it’s important that conversation does not get stuck discussing and thinking about theoretical frameworks of systems change. A fundamental component of Fulfilling Lives’ approach to supporting partners to understand the challenges faced by people with multiple complex needs, is through working within a co-production model and supporting Fulfilling Lives’ lived experience volunteers and staff to be involved at the heart of the systems change work we embark on.

The FLSE co-production model afforded the DWP a level of access to customers with multiple complex needs that they had not experienced before. It’s this approach that can profoundly alter perceptions, rooting the need for and direction of change in humanity and care. Feedback, at times critical feedback, can be difficult to handle. But with the right ingredients, in spaces where honesty and trust are reciprocal, and shared vision making is valued, the most candid of feedback is used as the next steppingstone to understand the problem more clearly and how to address it.

Changing Culture and Outlooks

In collaborating with DWP managers to understand the challenges through the eyes of customers with multiple complex needs, Fulfilling Lives provided a foundation for DWP managers to open up internal conversations on the most difficult aim of systems change, but likely the most influential and compelling: culture change. Alongside Fulfilling Lives, the DWP managers effectively communicated to the wider workforce how the organisation should be thinking about and supporting customers with multiple complex needs. This created momentum and professional curiosity that was evident through the positive engagement from the over 350 DWP workers that Fulfilling Lives facilitated online workshops and webinars for.

This learning and momentum created the platform to communicate in a way to DWP senior leaders that painted a clear picture of what was possible in supporting this group of customers.

Changes

The partnership and its foundations have enabled important activities that have supported a journey of change that is still evolving and developing as contexts change. We have compiled the key activities to illustrate the possibilities of close partnership working and to set out how we have approached putting systems change into practice together. This partnership journey can be viewed in detail here: Partnership Timeline.

Coming Up

In the next two instalments of this blog series, we will hear more from both the FLSE’s Service User Engagement Team on how they leveraged co-production practices to support systems change, as well as from the DWP managers at the heart of this partnership on how they leveraged the learning from this collaboration to drive the change internally.


Author: Alan Wallace

Should you wish to find out more about our partnership work or our systems change efforts, please contact:

Alan Wallace, Systems Change Officer: alan.wallace@sefulfillinglives.org.uk

Or

Rebecca Rieley, Systems Change Lead: rebecca.rieley@sefulfillinglives.org.uk

For more information sign up to our newsletter:

https://bht.us6.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=b43e61c311da27ad5194daffe&id=148d2193de