Restore Support Network is the user voice of older men and women with criminal convictions and those at risk of receiving a custodial sentence, representing their concerns and care needs. This includes special interest user groups such as older women, veterans, Black & Ethnic Minority (BAME), Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT). The charity also oversees the development of a national peer-led membership group for older people with criminal convictions who have demonstrated their commitment not to re-offend on release from prison and aim to become positive role models for others in the criminal justice system.
We seek to collaborate with other national and local agencies in the delivery of their specialist services that will benefit our service users. We also fully support government public protection policies including the role of police, probation, courts and victims of crime.
Based on our knowledge and experience in the South West and North West of England we offer the following services for older people over 50 years of age that, subject to funding, will be rolled out to other regions in England and Wales over the next three years:
Prior to release from prison: Our ‘through the gate’ support worker will produce an older person’s health and social care pathway that is linked to her or his resettlement pathway. This continuity of care approach involves issuing a personalised pathway document, called ‘My Own Pathway to Care’ (MOP2C ©) which the older person takes on release from prison. It will enable an individual to access local services and move towards independent living. The aim is not only to seek a reduction in the risk of re-offending but also to reduce an escalation of care needs in the community. Our pathway approach also ensures that those assessed by the NHS and local authority in accordance to the Care Act are able to access appropriate services in prison and the community.
Support in the community: A uniqueness of the personalised pathway document is that it works best when linked with a personal support worker in the community. The level of support varies and is dependent on need and risk assessment. It is available to any older person with a criminal conviction who is currently serving a custodial sentence or has recently been released and is now residing in the local community and subject to Licence conditions. There are three levels of support:
- Level One: Advice, advocacy and signposting to local services. Access to a personal support worker through a visit and/or access to a helpline in prison, subject to approval of Governor or in the community. This support is on going and not limited
- Level Two: As above but also allocated a personal volunteer befriender/advocate to assist access to local services during the early stages following their release from prison. Limited to maximum two months support.
- Level Three: Intensive mentoring/care support for a person who is high risk and/or care assessed by an enhanced DBS checked support worker. Where possible, referrals will be made to local specialist agencies. Restore Support Network will continue to monitor by offering Level One support to ensure specialist services are delivered where appropriate.
Pre-sentencing: MOP2C © approach is also suitable for older people appearing in court for sentencing and where applicable be included in a probation pre-sentencing report as an alternative to custody.
Supported accommodation: We are collaborating with other agencies to ensure there is a national network of supported accommodation in each region for older people with convictions with care needs and are frail, including vulnerable groups such as women who have been in abusive relationships.
HOW DO WE KNOW WHAT WORKS?
Firstly, our service users and peer workers have used their knowledge and experience in the design and development of our holistic pathway approach for those with multiple and complex needs.
Secondly, we have been able to analyse 327 older people with criminal convictions who have been supported by us over a ten-year period (2003 – 2013). This included 97 who received short-term befriending support on release from prison, 122 who required intensive mentoring and 108 who required advice and signposting to local services. A key finding was that over two-thirds had received little or no information or documentation to enable them to access local services prior to their release from prison. During 2015/2016 we followed up 41 who received one-to-one support and found that less than 5% had re-offended or been recalled.
Thirdly, Public Health England (PHE) has issued guidance to commissioners naming our approach as an example of good practice and that we ‘have been trialling a user-friendly and personalised ‘My Life My Care’ approach to release planning’. It identifies that this ‘involves production of guidance notes for all older people with care needs in prison prior to release and signposting them to services while serving their sentences and in preparation on their release’ (See Public Health England, Health and social care needs assessments of the older prison population, November 2017, page 58). The Guidance recognises that ‘consideration of health and social care needs is not limited to the prison setting alone but the total care pathway should be taken into account, from prison to discharge. This allows the work to adequately reflect continuity of care needs which are often more challenging in older people with multiple complex health and social care needs’ (page 12).
The Charity values its independence and therefore does not accept central government funding. However, commissioning, contractual work and social investment are welcome through its trading arm RSN Care Community Interest Company.