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Wisdom Wednesdays: Helping prison leavers to develop into society

In today’s blog, we hear from a frontline practitioner in the Catch22 Justice Personal Wellbeing Service on how they supported a vulnerable prison leaver back into the community through Catch22’s Social Inclusion programme. 

09 March 2022

Catch22 deliver nine Personal Wellbeing Support services for prison leavers on licence, leavers requiring post-sentence supervision, and those serving community or suspended sentences. 

The Personal Wellbeing services focus on four key areas:

  • Family and Significant Others,
  • Lifestyle and Associates,
  • Emotional Wellbeing, and
  • Social Inclusion 

Tobias Benson is a Navigator Mentor in the Catch22 Justice Personal Wellbeing Service. In this blog, he shares how he supported an older service user after leaving prison on the Social Inclusion programme.


Tobias, can you tell us a bit about the service user’s situation when they came to Catch22?

“After a long sentence, Mr F who is 69 years old was released from prison in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to a world very different to the one he remembered. He was limited in where he could travel and places such as the bank, the library or health services were almost impossible to access in person. 

“Additionally, his health had declined whilst in custody and he was struggling to access the help or support he needed which was causing a spiralling decline. He didn’t seem to be receiving much focused support from elsewhere and was housed in an extremely unsuitable area. He was living on the third floor which put him off from leaving due to mobility issues and was surrounded by people willing to take advantage of his vulnerabilities.”  

What support did Mr F need?

“My priority was to tackle the practical issues which Mr F was facing. He desperately needed to be able access a pharmacy on a regular basis to stabilise his diabetes so he could complete day to day activities. So, I tried to get him a freedom pass which would allow him free travel around London but there were significant issues around him proving his identity as he didn’t have a passport or birth certificate. After ongoing issues with getting hold of his passport number to apply for a new one, we were able to track this down which was a great development and with an official ID, he should find it far easier to access other services.  

“We also went through the workbooks that tackle communication and building strong relationships. To overcome past issues, we have talked about what makes a relationship unhealthy and warning signs to look out for. Mr F has used these skills to make sure that other support agencies he contacts fully appreciate his needs as well as build more secure, trustworthy relationships.” 

As a prison leaver, how did you support Mr F’s transition into the community? 

“The helpful people at the EE store and myself supported Mr F to get online and reached out to old friends and acquaintances from his past. It has been great for him to be able to connect with people with a shared history and has boosted his confidence to see that he isn’t entirely alone. One of these contacts was especially helpful when it came to moving day for Mr F. I expressed concern to his probation officer at our capability to move his worldly possessions on the tube network across London and it was only when an old friend offered to come up from the coast and drive Mr F that it was possible to action this move.”

What were the challenges when supporting this service user?

“Mr F’s financial situation was concerning, he was too unwell to leave his flat late last year and he disclosed to me that he was paying other residents to do shopping for him. It was clear they were taking advantage of him and constantly pursuing him for more money and favours. I contacted the local safeguarding team, and they were able to examine more closely the exploitation that was taking place.  

“Ultimately, he needed to move out of the area to have a fresh start. It seemed like things had hit rock bottom when he was eventually ordered to leave the property on his birthday last year and it was a very worrying possibility that he may spend Christmas homeless. But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it got the wheels in motion for a quick move to another area which Mr F was very relieved about.”  

How has the service user benefitted from Catch22 support?

“Mr F’s new accommodation is in a peaceful area on the outskirts of London. He has a riverside walk and a number of large shops on his doorstep and crucially a doctor’s surgery just up the road. It is nice to see the change in his health and stress levels no longer living in his previous area where he was being exploited and essentially left in an extremely vulnerable situation. 

“My referral to the local council has come to fruition and the person taking over the case is extremely involved and has actioned some very beneficial changes for Mr F. He will shortly be receiving daily care visits with some assistance with shopping and accessing his medication as well as transport to a weekly community meeting which will improve his social life. 

“When I went to visit Mr F in his new area, we went for a walk to the retail park, and he couldn’t stop smiling. I could see that the tension and pressures that he had been under for the last 6 months whilst housed in an unsafe area were lifting and he had something to look forward to again.”


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