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A partnership approach is essential if we are to address the causes of criminal activity effectively. from 'Reducing Crime - Changing Lives: The Government's plans for transforming the management of offenders' (Home Office, 2004)

What is it?

A motivational resettlement programme aimed at short sentence prisoners. This was commissioned by Connect and part funded by the European Social Fund, a resettlement project managed by West Mercia Probation and delivered throughout the West of Midlands Area, in partnership with local probation boards and regional prisons. The project aims to provide resettlement guidance during custody and after release for prisoners sentenced to less than 12 months Probation Boards.

The programme was designed by Linda Blud and Yvonne Copley, co-founders of Alembic, and we are pleased to be able to offer the Signpost programme to other organisations by kind permission of, and under licence to, Connect.

Who is it for?

For short sentence prisoners who would not have access to longer cognitive behavioural programmes. Short sentence prisoners account for about 70% of the prison population, but currently receive the least access to education and offending behaviour programmes. For these prisoners, any intervention will be limited by time constraints, and needs therefore to focus on signposting individuals in the right direction, primarily by enhancing motivation, recognizing needs and goals, and establishing an agenda for change.

In West Mercia the target group for Signpost is prisoners serving less than 12 months, returning to the West Midlands region on release, including all male prisoners aged 18-25, all women prisoners, and all ethnic minority prisoners.

What problems does Signpost address?

For many offenders, release from prison presents problems in relation to basic social needs, such as accommodation or employment, relationship difficulties, and other problems such as involvement in drugs and alcohol. During the period immediately following release, ex-prisoners are most at risk of falling back into their old patterns of behaviour, and re-offending, because of lack of resources and opportunity. These problems may be compounded by a lack of skills, a lack of confidence, or a lack of commitment.

What is it designed to achieve?

'The central aim of the programme is to raise awareness of the need for change, to help offenders identify achievable goals in terms of basic needs and realistic wants, and to signpost the way to gain appropriate support both inside and outside prison'. - From Reflect: The Connect Magazine, January 2004.

On completion of the course, each participant will have a detailed Action Plan of identified goals, with a number of 'SMART' short, medium and longer term objectives related to each. The Action Plan provides a framework for continuing work pre-release, such as referral to accommodation providers, Fresh Start or possibly drug support services. In West Mercia's implementation, it is used as the basis of a relationship with a community-based mentor.

How does it work?

Signpost is a groupwork programme based around five sessions with the common theme of a 'journey'. Participants are required to complete some homework between sessions.

Session 1: At a crossroads
Choosing my direction; Goal setting; Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats; Prioritising goals

Session 2: Roadside assistance
Developing support networks; Identifying specific support needs and agencies / individuals that can help; Mentoring; First road tests

Session 3: Planning your route
A reality check on goals to make them SMART; Distinguishing wants and needs; Checking out the direction we want to travel in; More road tests

Session 4: Avoiding road works
Focusing on change; Decisional balances; Recognising obstacles; Planning to take action; Final road tests

Session 5: My Highway Code
Finalising an achievable action plan

How is it delivered?

Delivery of training: A four-day training course for up to 16 participants, or two courses for up to eight participants per course. For each group of eight participants, one tutor will be required. The training will involve presentations by the tutors, and the preparation and presentation of sessions by trainees. Comprehensive feedback will be given, and a summary of strengths and areas for improvement provided, together with recommendations on competence of trainees, at the end of the training.

Supervision support: During the initial roll-out period, on-site supervision will be provided, consisting of a one-day visit during which videos of delivery can be assessed and general guidance and support provided. A brief report offering suggestions for a structure to aid continuing local supervision of the programmes will be provided.

Quality control: Continued video monitoring support can be provided if required.

Programme delivery: One or two tutors would deliver the Signpost Programme to up to eight participants over five days, in sessions lasting 2 - 2 hours.

Manuals: A CD of the manual will be provided in advance of training, for clients to print off as required.

For further details please email us at enquiries@alembic.org.uk