Recognising the Issue

Group of players at the SSA Cup

I am so proud of everyone associated with our custody to community programme for which we have been recognised with a regional award by Lloyds Bank Foundation for ‘Outstanding Impact’. In October we will discover whether we have won the national award for this category at a prestigious event being held in London.

We contribute a significant amount of resource into our prison based programmes and have experienced truly exceptional results when it comes to community engagement with the ex-inmates and the associated reoffending rates being minimal (sub 10%). I’m sure this award is the first of many for us in recognition of the amazing impact we are having at fundamentally changing the outlook, lifestyles and opportunities for people with offending backgrounds.

One of the reasons for our success is that we don’t operate a ‘one size fits all’ approach when considering the service users. Even though they are incarcerated, their main issue and support need is not necessarily offending behaviour. This is often a consequence of their primary support needs. We pride ourselves in discovering the support needs of each of our service users and producing an action plan for development, which is bespoke to each person.

Offending can be a by-product of homelessness. Rough sleeping and not being able to afford to eat can lead to a criminal action, which can lead to a custodial sentence. Having an undiagnosed mental health condition can cause an individual to behave out of character resulting in serious yet preventable behaviour and actions.

Another constituting factor to offending behaviour is experienced by veterans, or ex-armed servicemen. We are currently looking to develop a piece of work to specifically help support veterans in custody and community and the research we have conducted over recent weeks has been very interesting.

I recently interviewed one of our beneficiaries who has an ex-military background. We first engaged with Liam in HMP Forest Bank prison as he enrolled on our Coach Education and Personal Development programme. He has been in community now for two and a half years. Here are the main points he highlighted that are challenges for veterans returning from the front line back to normal every lives ‘at home’:

Adrenalin

“In the army you feed off adrenalin. When you’re back in community you’re looking for that next ‘high’ be it legal or not. Committing a crime can give you that rush of adrenalin. It can be that the crime is committed for no other reason than to experience that rush of adrenalin once again.”

Age and Adulthood

“Many teenagers aged 16 and 17 years old are recruited into the army. When they are released back into mainstream society they enter into communities as an adult for the very first time. They have no terms of reference when it comes to decision-making and no life experience as an adult in community.”

Teamwork

“In the army you work together, live together and socialise together. A strong bond is formed. You become framed by teamwork and being part of a group of people who look out for each other. When resettling back into community you can feel alone and isolated. This lack of camaraderie can lead to depression and other mental health challenges which in turn can lead to drug taking as a form of escapism.”

Support Length

“The support on offer to assist with resettling back into community is too short. The issues that ex-servicemen need to overcome can take a long-term period. Intervention and support needs to remain in place for an indefinite period.”

It was interesting to hear Liam’s feedback and it provided some clear information as to why since engaging with us, his life and circumstances have taken a great turn for the better.

When Liam was released from prison two and a half years ago he engaged with our ‘through the gate’ support and community programme and is still in regular contact with us now. He has managed to replace and change much of his ‘pre-programmed’ behaviour from the army and channeled it positively into other areas such as team-based sport, in particular football. This together with our long-term support has provided a method that enables his life to now be on an even keel. He commented that he knows even now, 30 months down the line we are still there for him to offer support, which gives him great reassurance.

Liam successfully transitioned into community from prison because HMP Forest Bank and Street Soccer Academy recognised the cause of his problems was not offending behaviour, its was a consequence. He did not need to be treated like a criminal per se but a veteran who requires specific support in order to settle effectively back into community.

The infrastructure that our model provides has enabled Liam to successfully resettle from the institution of prison into community in a way he wishes he had been able to directly from the army. It is our aim and ambition to create a transferrable model of support that can ultimately be operated in partnership with the Armed Services in order to see more veterans successfully resettle back into communities directly from the front line.

Author Andrew Thorp

Andrew founded the Street Soccer Academy concept in 2005 and under his leadership the work has developed into an award winning registered charity and innovative enterprise. Educated at Loughborough University, Andrew has a BSc Hons in Management Sciences and has experience as a tutor and assessor at Salford City College, responsible for the delivery of an NVQ 2 qualification in Teaching, Instructing and Training. He is also a UEFA 'B' qualified coach and has vast experience working in the professional and semi-professional football world at Rochdale AFC, Leigh RMI and Trafford FC. It is through his experience in these fields that the accredited education programmes have been formulated in order to significantly enhance the opportunities of Street Soccer Academy beneficiaries.

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