New project to help former prisoners to rebuild their lives after release
- Credit: Colin Finch
A pilot project is due to launch in Norwich to help ex-offenders improve their life chances after they are released from prison.
The New Life Ambassadors for Change is a series of projects aimed at plugging the gaps for vulnerable prisoners.
The former High Sheriff of Norfolk Charles Watt has successfully secured funding to help enable former prisoners to be securely housed and supported throughout the first year of their release.
He is working alongside the High Sheriff of Norfolk Lady Clare Agnew, Norfolk Community Foundation, Norwich Prison and the Department for Work and Pensions on the programme, which is due to launch on Thursday, July 4.
The series of pilot projects will examine how best to support ex-offenders, offering vocational training, introducing potential employers and secure employment prior to leaving custody.
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The initiative has found former prisoners were left with little support upon release and those most determined not to re-offend and deemed low risk are often those who receive the least support on their release.
Some ex-offenders who gain hostel accommodation and find work are sometimes faced with the decision to keep either their housing of their job, as the rent increases to cover the costs of the warden services when employed.
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Some struggle to find work as they have nowhere to live while others cannot afford a deposit for accommodation or provide right to work documents.
Mr Watt said: "As High Sheriff of Norfolk you have a unique ability to ask pointed questions and bring people together to solve problems.
"Before I took up my year of office I found out that offenders released from Norfolk prisons had no formal means of identification, principally because no single agency had the funds to pay for duplicate birth certificates.
"Further release saw them put out into the world with £46, a tent, a bag for their possessions, a basic survival kit and little else.
"Further investigation showed me that all agencies recognised that the release and rehabilitation programmes available were generally inadequate and isolated from one another.
"I was convinced we really needed a pilot programme to give offenders who showed willingness a proper chance to start a new life."