Originally known as Restore 50plus it was established as an un-constituted peer support group in 1996 by four serving older prisoners. In 2011 it changed its name to Restore Support Network when it became a registered company limited by guarantee and subsequently became registered as a national charity in 2013. The name was derived from:
- Restore - we acknowledge that we have broken trust through our offences in the past causing hurt and distress and seek to try and restore this through rehabilitation
- Support - experience has demonstrated that support and advice offered prior and after release is vital to successful rehabilitation
- Network - we are a national and regional network for older people leaving prison
Stuart Ware is one of our founding members. He obtained his PhD at the University of Sheffield in 2007. Stuart Ware has considerable expertise in the field of restorative justice working on behalf of older offenders. He was instrumental in the establishment of both The Footprints Project and RECOOP - Resettlement and Care for Older Ex-offenders and Prisoners (formally ACOOP - Age Concern Older Offenders Project) charities in 2004. Between 2006 and 2010 Dr Ware was a consultant to the Department of Health Offender Health Unit. During this time he became aware that the growing needs of older prisoners was not being dealt with by agencies and charities. He therefore decided, with other like minded people, to form the charity Restore Support Network and he is now its Chief Executive.
Restore SN has a Vision of bringing peace and reconciliation to our local communities by reformed older offenders becoming active citizens and positive role models. The Vision is guided by our Core Values which are based on concepts of restorative justice, honesty, trust, love, and hope. These concepts continue to inform its practice, as guided by evidence provided by it service users. Our reformed older ex-offenders have collectively tried to learn from their experiences of imprisonment and the struggles to resettle. It has enabled them to identify what they have in common and what works best for us – not only to preventer-offending, but also to become role models for others.
Since becoming a charity Restore SN has developed a team of Peer Befrienders and Enhanced DBS checked volunteer workers who have no criminal record, to support older offenders with care and resettlement needs. Our success can be summarised in one word: ‘commitment’ - to our Vision and Core Values by our growing band of workers as well as our service users. This is a commitment of time and effort to change lives. It is a commitment of going on a journey together. Our learning is refined over time and informs our experiences. This in turn guides us in adapting our services that will meet the needs of our service users and respond to the growing challenges we face together.
I was supported by Restore on my release from prison. This gave me a new purpose and a goal for the future without committing any further offences. My mentor helped me rediscover my self-respect and the confidence to continue to live a fulfilling life in my local community. He was always there for me and gave me a lot of moral and practical support to help me with my healing process. During this period I made lots of new friends involved with Restore SN
Putting my past behind me I went on to train as a peer mentor for Restore. I have mentored four men and one woman released from prison over the past three years and returning to my area. Two were met at the gate of HMP Guys Marsh by our volunteer support workers and the other was collected from HMP Portland. I helped all five to sort out their debts, rent arrears and Benefits. ‘Pete’ needed my support to obtain a permanent tenancy and deal with harassment from a neighbour without over-reacting. ‘Harry’ needed help to get back to work as a self-employed tradesman.
I like the team approach which Restore encourages. So I work with my neighbouring peer mentor co-ordinator, Brendan, in Bristol. We provide each other with moral support.
Working with this charity has shown me that a ‘leopard can change his spots’ – with the right guidance and support.
Veronika (Volunteer Peer Mentor Co-ordinator, West Midlands)
[At our annual team meeting with Restore SN Board of Trustees, Veronika was awarded the Volunteer of the Year 2016]