United front ushers in exciting new area for CSI
Active Lancashire’s Challenge Through Sport Initiative (CSI) has moved into an exciting new area with the formation of a partnership with Lancashire United, a body comprising seven Premier League or English Football League (EFL) Community Trusts.
Entitled ‘United Together’, the county-wide project helps people being supported by prisons and probation services in Lancashire to build confidence, improve skills and employment prospects, with the aim of engaging in their local communities and preventing re-offending.
United Together started with the Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) and progressed to working inside the prison, after prisoners and ex-offenders stated it would create a better and more sustainable pathway if the CSI could build up trust and rapport first, then continue to work with them on their release.
The seven clubs involved are Premier League Burnley, plus Accrington Stanley, Blackburn Rovers, Blackpool, Fleetwood Town, Morecambe and Preston North End of the EFL.
The training programme has been created to help build up trust and rapport with people whilst in prison, so that they will want to connect with the Football Community Trusts (FCTs) and Active Lancashire through the CSI on their release.
CSI provides a peer mentor, who works with the CRC and the National Probation Service (NPS), other partners and their clients to agree suitable action plans for participation in United Together.
The peer mentors keep CRC and NPS informed about a client’s engagement and attendance throughout their participation in the programme.
When the clients are ready for the next step, they are introduced to the FCTs, who provide activities at their hubs along with the CSI.
The FCTs then offer support and advice on health and nutrition, volunteering opportunities, work experience placements and help with preparing for employment. This is funded by the CRC and the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).
The first programme in a prison was delivered in February by Active Lancashire’s CSI, Preston North End, Great Places Housing Group and supporting agencies already working in Preston Prison.
Active Lancashire CSI Manager Jane Moodie explained: “The pilot project was developed over a long period with Preston Prison staff. They have overcome a number of barriers which, due to a passionate and committed partnership, they have managed to work through.
“Together they have developed an approach which would not only support those being released from prison ‘through the gate’ and out into the community, but which would provide pre-release accredited training and provide the prison staff with opportunities to upskill and increase their knowledge of how to provide a more varied sport and physical activity offer.”
One of the 12 participants described it as “a good course” and promised to use the mentors as much as he could on release and grasping the services that are on offer.
‘I feel so positive and stronger to change my life and make a difference to others and the world,” he added. “I learnt a lot about wellbeing and mindfulness. It’s made me think a lot about how I come across and how I’m going to listen more. I learnt how to work as a team, how to communicate and a lot about coaching – I really enjoyed it.”
Active Lancashire initially applied for funding for the project from a fund which Sport England launched around innovative work to develop/upskill a sport and physical activity workforce. The small funding grant has been supplemented by contributions of staff time and additional resources from all of the partner, while the NPS has provided professional training that has been paramount in helping the team with their work.
The Sport England funding and delivery partners’ contribution has allowed United Together to provide an offer based on participant and partner feedback.
“All 12 participants who engaged in the project are now receiving support as they move out into the community and we are continually building on the support that we could offer,” Jane added.
“Their initial contact will be via CSI support workers acting as mentors, the football clubs’ community trust staff and the housing associations’ mentors involved in the MPT2 project.”
Justin Coleman, Chief Operating Officer for Alliance of Sport, said: “It’s very powerful to see and hear that football clubs, community partners and criminal justice are effectively working together in this way, with all ages and stages of the criminal justice system being supported by a united approach.
“Jane and the CSI team are intrinsically linked and ensure there is a single point of contact for the participants on the programme. That directly aids the resettlement, consistent mentoring and support back into the community, a higher chance of reducing re-offending and an increased ability to ensure a safer community for all.
“This project, along with other multi-club initiatives in South Yorkshire, West Midlands and London, is beginning to demonstrate to communities that long–held rivalries can be put aside for the greater good. Lancashire United is a leading example of how to bring communities (and clubs) together through the power of sport.”