Originally known as Restore 50plus we were established as an un-constituted peer support group in 1996 by four serving older prisoners. In 2011 we 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:
- 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
experience has demonstrated that support and advice offered prior and after release is vital to successful rehabilitation
- 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.
'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 Support Network.
Putting my past behind me, I went on to train as a peer mentor for Restore Support Network. 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.'
Marys’ Story (67 year old grandmother)
‘I have had eight short sentences while being homeless for committing offences to do with my drinking… Although I am not seeking to blame others I have a history of being with men who abuse me and this causes me to drink…Thanks to Restore one of their volunteers has helped me to find sheltered housing and away from men who want to use me. I am now getting support whenever I feel the need and for the first time in years I have met my daughter and two grandchildren’
Johns’ Story (53 years of age released from prison after serving long sentence)
‘I was a young man when I went to prison and am now in a wheelchair with severe disabilities… I have had great difficulties adjusting to life by myself and without my friends…Thanks to my mentor who sees me every week I feel no longer alone and have stopped wishing I was back inside’.
Peters’ Story (72 years old)
‘While I was serving my first prison sentence I lost my home and had nowhere to go when I got out. I went to my council housing department and was told I would be bottom of the housing list. Probation suggested that Restore Support Network might help me and they agreed that someone would help me find somewhere to live - which they did… I have a lot of pain and care needs and have been assessed by a social worker from the council. Although I am frail and fall over at times I am not thought to be eligible for council help as I can still care for myself. But my Restore volunteer worker helped me to finish my licence and I can now look after myself in my little bedsit and see my worker friend a couple of times each month.’
Since becoming a charity Restore Support Network 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.