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Rebecca Dillon

A successful national network

Continued success of Commonweal’s flagship Re-Unite project now sees it running in five regions across England, supporting more and more women to reunite with their children when released from prison

2012 proved a real success for the Re-Unite project, once a single successful pilot project covering three boroughs of south London but now a growing national network of projects delivered across south London, Birmingham, Gloucestershire, Greater Manchester,Yorkshire and Humberside.

Re-Unite was developed to demonstrate that mothers and children who have been separated by imprisonment can be successfully reunited and, indeed, thrive, when obstacles to their housing support are removed and timely care and support is provided.

The key aims of Re-Unite are to:

  • Keep children out of the care system (where it is in their best interests)
  • Reunite families in suitable, stable housing, ensuring that mothers lead less chaotic, more healthy lifestyles and desist from reoffending
  • Make sure children and young people access sufficient support

The many projects being delivered in England are run by expert organisations including women’s centres, housing associations and homeless support charities.

So far, these projects have reunited 49 mothers and more than 60 children.
Thirteen families have successfully moved on from the original Re-Unite project in south London, with over 50% of those women going on to secure employment or volunteering work.

Statistics from our projects outside London have also started to underline the importance of Re-Unite. We are supporting 28 women and 57 children outside of the capital. 16 of those 28 women are in Re-Unite homes. The remaining 12 women are living in a variety of temporary arrangements while their Re-Unite projects work to support them into something more stable.

We have found that while their mother is in custody or homeless, the majority of these children (39%) are living with their grandparents, 16% are living with their father and more than a quarter (26%) are in local authority care. We have also found that 26% of the children have been separated from a sibling.

Forty-one percent of all the women we support have been diagnosed with depression or postnatal depression and 65% have drug or alcohol issues. These are difficult issues to control and beat but the holistic support provided by our partners gives these women a chance to move forward independently.

We are clear that Re-Unite is providing that vital first step to ensuring cost savings to the state but more importantly a stable and positive opportunity for families to get their lives back on track.

Our plans for 2013 are to continue growing the network, and to ensure the sustainability of the projects longer-term. This will involve taking steps to protect the quality of the brand, to bring in new sources of funding and to continue to collect and share our learnings with you all.

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