Prison Leavers Project: improving outcomes for prison leavers

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Prison Leavers is a new project to improve the social inclusion of people leaving prison. It recently received £20million funding from the HMT Shared Outcomes Fund, which supports innovative approaches to complex challenges which ‘cut across’ multiple departments.

When people leave prison they face a wide range of challenges, such as finding employment and having any financial security; improving and maintaining their physical and mental health; obtaining safe and stable accommodation; and building positive relationships with family, friends and the wider community.

A huge number of departments, agencies, local authorities, charities and others play important roles in delivering services to prison leavers, but often these services are not as joined-up as the challenges they seek to address. If we cannot address prison leavers’ overall needs – recognising that they may also be job seekers, patients in treatment, or sleeping rough – we risk a cycle of missed opportunities, social exclusion and reoffending.

The Prison Leavers Project recognises that to solve such intractable and interconnected challenges, we need to work in new ways. It adopts a systems-led approach, bringing together more than 30 organisations including government departments, local authorities, police and charities, to establish joint ownership of the problems and solutions for people leaving prison. By building a better understanding of the entire system, we aim to identify key points of leverage where interventions might have a wider ripple effect, and adopt new approaches which address the barriers which people face on release, increasing their ability to participate and feel included in their communities. In doing so, we will improve the experience and outcomes for our service users, and support key Government priorities such as reducing reoffending, ending rough sleeping, supporting people to enter work and enhancing social mobility.

The Ministry of Justice are leading this cross-government project and will be working closely with service users and across organisational boundaries to develop solutions to the key challenges prison leavers face.

The project will bring innovation into the reducing reoffending challenge and build robust evidence on what works, by rapidly developing and testing multiple interventions at a small scale, before scaling up the most effective over time. This work is part of the government’s GBP220 million package to reduce crime. The Prison Leavers Project will compliment this work, by addressing a wider range of user needs and making their impact more sustainable.

There are 3 distinct parts to the Prison Leavers Project, each testing a different approach:

  1. Cross-sector teams
  2. Local Leadership and Integration Fund
  3. Prison Leavers Innovation Challenge

1. Cross-sector teams

The project is establishing 4 teams made of up colleagues from across the public and third sector to co-design and test innovative pilots with service users. The teams will focus on 4 key areas of challenge for prison leavers:

  • health and wellbeing
  • the day of release from prison
  • community and relationships
  • employability and skills

2. Local Leadership and Integration Fund

The Ministry of Justice is launching a grant funding scheme to support the development of locally-led pilots which aims to improve the outcomes of prison leavers. The Local Leadership and Integration Fund will fund local partnerships to improve services in their area. There will be 2 rounds of the competition. The first round launched on Monday 8 February 2021. The second round is expected to launch in Summer 2021.

The Local Leadership and Integration Fund is worth GBP7.1 million in total, which will be split between two rounds of competition. The maximum grant award per bid is GBP1 million.

Round 1: Local Leadership and Integration Fund

The solutions to many of the issues facing prison leavers are specific to their local area. Improving outcomes for prison leavers therefore requires a tailored approach that accounts for the local context and builds on the expertise and experience of local leaders.

The Local Leadership and Integration Fund focuses specifically on local systems leadership. It provides grant funding and support to empower local leaders and agencies to improve join-up of services and find innovative ways to work together towards shared outcomes. In doing so, the project hopes to learn more about what works to reduce reoffending at a local level and find new approaches to improve the outcomes in prison leavers, which in time can be scaled up and help shape future policy.

The first round of the competition is now open. The competition will close on Monday 22 March 2021 and will require bidders to submit an application which demonstrates how they meet our criteria. We expect pilots to begin in development stage from May 2021 and run until September 2022.

Full information on the Local Leadership and Integration Fund can be found on the grant hub. Visit the grant hub to apply for the fund and find a range of information including:

  • Prospectus
  • FAQs
  • Templates for applications
  • Webinars providing more information

3. Prison Leavers Innovation Challenge

The Prison Leavers Innovation Challenge will work with dynamic organisations such as start-ups and SMEs to develop and pilot new digital or technological solutions to improve outcomes for prison leavers.

The competition is expected to launch in Spring 2021.

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