Amy is a resident at Caritas Anchor House, a community centre providing support and accommodation for vulnerable adults in Newham, East London. As part of her support plan, Amy’s support worker referred to her the Khulisa’s ‘Silence the Violence’ Programme in 2015.
After experiencing a series of personal incidents and emotional challenges in her life, Amy turned to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism which led to a criminal conviction and lengthy prison sentence.
"When I was first interviewed for the programme I wasn't sure if I could cope with it... but I found that I enjoyed the creative approach and discovered that I like expressing myself through art. The programme has really made me think, stop and re-assess situations"
When she was released from prison, Amy found herself homeless and with very few people to support her in her reintegration into the community. Her previous experiences and the trauma she’d experienced continued to manifest themselves in destructive and violent behaviour towards herself and others. With help from her support worker, Amy recognised that she needed to find new, more positive coping mechanisms and they agreed she would benefit from being able to talk about her past experiences. It was at this point that Amy was referred to the Khulisa team to take part in ‘Silence the Violence’, an intensive 5-day behaviour change group programme which uses art and drama to help participants to explore the root causes of their negative or violent behaviour.
Amy joined her group programme in June 2015, and although initially she found it difficult to open up and share her experiences, after engaging in some of the creative activities she discovered that she was able to express her thoughts and feelings through her artwork. This started a profound and empowering journey of self-discovery for Amy as she started to unburden herself of the guilt and shame she had been carrying and discovered alternative ways of coping with her emotions.
Amy described one of the ‘key moments’ on the programme as being able to recognise the physiological responses she has before she becomes angry and implementing positive steps to stop her from ‘acting out’.
"I was at a point in my life where I was sick of losing my temper. My lightbulb moment was realising that certains things that happened to me were not my fault. I’m aware of the physical responses that I have now when I’m feeling angry and I’m at a point in my life where I’m sick of losing my temper. Khulisa's programme has really opened my eyes to a whole new me."
Amy’s self-esteem and confidence also grew on the programme, helping her to visualise a brighter future and to recognise and build healthier relationships with others.
In the follow-up 1-1 sessions with the programme facilitators, Amy was able to reflect on what she’d learnt and go on to identify her aspirations for the future. She began thinking about how she could share her past experiences in order to help others, turning the negatives into positives. By December of 2015, she had identified some goals for her future, building a career in youth work and moving on to living independently.
Over the last 18 months, Amy has made great progress towards these goals and has:
- Secured her own accommodation and preparing for independent living - she loves having her own space and thoroughly enjoys cooking and even cleaning.
- Secured employment as a Volunteer Co-ordinator for the hostel where she currently lives – she manages the hostel’s volunteers and all administration of the volunteering programme.
- Successfully applied to complete a diploma in ‘Helping, Mentoring and Community’; the course will start in January 2018.
- Been accepted onto an Expert Advisory Panel for a national charity, using her experience of homelessness to help inform policy and practice.
- Applied to be on the Youth Volunteering Team, using her experience to support young people in her local community.
Silence the Violence’ has had a transformative impact on Amy’s life and she firmly believes that the Khulisa programme was the catalyst for this change. Even with her fantastic progress, Amy continues to work on her emotional well-being and has developed a keen interest in psychology. Over the last two years she has managed to deal with several challenging situations in a positive way, even acting as a role model to others at the hostel. Her creative flair (that she discovered on the Khulisa programme) has become a passion and a positive coping mechanism for times when she feels stressed or anxious and she continues to channel her emotions into creative writing.
Amy describes her life now as being one of excitement and intrigue:
“I’m so glad that I took that first step in exploring my emotions, I’ve come a long way since doing the ‘Silence the Violence’ programme. Although at times I still have my challenges I am so far from the angry person I used to be, I can manage so much better. Khulisa's programme has really opened my eyes to a whole new me. I take each day as it comes but I see it as being exciting now and who knows what is around the corner for me with all the options I’m exploring.”
*Participant names and images have been changed to protect privacy
Khulisa’s mentoring programme called "Milestones Mentoring" has been delivered in Bolton since 2015. It is a through-the-gate mentoring programme for prisoners which provides intensive resettlement support from 6 months pre-release, to 6-12 months post-release. It offers support to aid the transition and integration within the community, focusing on issues and challenges the individual may experience during their licence conditions.
Mentors are matched with individuals to support their individual needs during this period, offering advice, guidance and supporting positives choices to reduce re-offending while increasing the opportunities for, education, employment and training. During the mentoring engagement, mentors will look to support the individual to help raise self-esteem and confidence, to help nurture better relationships between families (if appropriate) and the community. The mentor will support the individual to explore their behaviours and experiences and help them to face the challenges they are met with, working towards achieving a positive outcome and the individual reaching their full potential.
Offenders who are released within the Bolton and Bury area have to meet Khulisa’s ‘participant profile’ to be considered eligible for the mentoring programme. An initial assessment appointment explores areas of support needed such as their motivation to want to attend sessions, their awareness and recognition that offending is ‘not the answer’ and the desire and motivation to want to implement new strategies and coping skills to enhance their futures.
These factors are all explored on first appointment with the Programme Coordinator based in Greater Manchester.
During 2016, 44 participants received support through the Milestones Mentoring programme
- 12 individuals had family breakdowns due to their offending behaviour, of those 12 individuals 66.6% re-engaged with family while supported by a Milestones mentor and continued to work at the family relationship.
- 35 individuals have consistently engaged with the milestone mentoring programme completing six months or more and have not re-offended.
- 23 Individuals have received support through the milestones programme that enabled then to secure accommodation, Benefits, education or employment.
"I just feel like I’m up against the system, housing benefits and no-one is listening. But you just seem to sort my head out and get people to listen to me. I mean it’s not a massive thing to everyone else but to me it’s massive because I just couldn't cope with everything at once" Milestones Mentoring participant, 2016
Khulisa works mainly with HMP Forest Bank, Bolton and partner organisations within the Greater Manchester area to try and implement effective and sustainable change for the individual during custody and after release.
Probation case managers within probation are an integral part of the Offender's journey. They oversee the Offender's ‘license terms’ during their time on license and ensure that they are undertaking the necessary programmes and interventions to address their offence. Probation case managers are the main referral pathway for Offenders undertaking the Milestones mentoring programme in the North West.
Case managers recognise that Milestones mentoring, as a support service, is effective in helping participants to explore their past experiences in a non-judgemental inclusive environment, and that these conditions help them to make positive changes to their behaviour.
"I’m so glad that probation said that I needed your support, I could be on the streets by now or worse if I didn't have you to help me sort my life out" Milestones Mentoring Participant, 2016