Three trainees are part of a new team offering support to people on probation.
The Getting Real Opportunities for Work (GROW) traineeship is run by Inspiring Change Manchester (ICM) in partnership with the Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company. Its aim is to protect the public by preventing re-offending.
Eddie Fraser, Chelsey Gibbon and Alicia Hardy carry out a variety of roles across the city working with offenders on probation who have multiple needs relating to mental health, drug and alcohol use or homelessness.
The trio have all previously been on probation, and part of the initiative’s aim is to use their experience to improve service delivery while also providing them with employment opportunities.
Eddie, who is in recovery from addiction, spent 30-years in the criminal justice service.
He said: “I had multiple and complex needs. I’ve been in and out of prison since the age of 16 and at points I thought I was going to die. Now I am helping others, and that feels so good.
“I’ve had long periods where I felt I was labelled and judged by the system before I even got a foot in the door. But as I began to want that change, I also had a probation officer who showed faith in me, who trusted me and who interacted with me as a human being and took me out for coffee. I know how crucially important that approach is.
“I don’t think my experience automatically qualifies me for the job, but I do think mixing people who have lived experience with those who have the skills that qualifications bring can be instrumental in supporting change.”
Eddie enjoyed a voluntary position managed by Community Led Initiatives, before then joining Inspiring Change Manchester. He is now based in a multi-disciplinary team working with people with complex needs.
Chelsey served a custodial sentence and came into probation after completing her licence and benefitting from participating on the Freedom course. Her role is based at Moss Side probation, where she provides a mentoring service to any offender who is not complying well and who agrees to have her support.
Chelsey said: “I love the job. I work with some clients who sometimes consider themselves to be a lost cause. I’m available to take their calls and to spend time with them so that I can build a rapport and work to reduce their likelihood of reoffending.
“I’m very laid back. It’s not the Chelsey show, but I am happy talking about the troubles I’ve faced if it’s appropriate to do so.”
Amy Hall, CGM CRC’s equalities officer, said: “Part of the programme’s design is that the individual’s criminal record works for them rather than against them, and for the trainees to use their experience to support the rehabilitation of others.
“The trainees are all using their experience and knowledge to tremendous effect.”
The trainees also get the opportunity to study an on-line level 3 criminology and criminal psychology qualification and to take part in public speaking events.
Paul Pandolfo, ICM’s Programme Manager, said: “I’m very proud of the GROW trainees, their insight and enthusiasm for encouraging others to turn their lives around is amazing.
“It leads to a double win, people get real work opportunities and to enhance their career prospects and they complement and enhance existing practice whilst on placement.
“There’s an increasing body of evidence that running services with people who have experienced multiple needs can lead to much better engagement and outcomes. I’d also like to give a huge thank you to Cheshire & Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company for giving it’s backing to the scheme.”
ICM is a Shelter-led project, funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s initiative Fulfilling Lives: supporting people with multiple needs.