Re-Unite, Commonweal’s flagship project, continues to go from strength to strength. Here we find out how it is being delivered in other parts of the UK. Initially launched as a small pilot project in south London, Re-Unite is successfully entering the next stage of development. The aim of the project was to provide a stable home environment and tailored support to mothers leaving prison in order to help re-unite them with their children, thereby breaking the cycle of criminality and deprivation.
The pilot’s founding partners – Commonweal Housing and Housing for Women (HfW) –expected to see a multitude of benefits in addition to the number of children re-united with their mothers. These included improved lives for the families supported, a reduction in re-offending rates and lessening the costs – both social and financial – of crime to society.
Under the initial partnership agreement, HfW provides frontline support to the families, while Commonweal provides 10 homes for these families to live in as well as resourcing an independent evaluation.
The results of the pilot held between 2007 and 2009, which also involved the charity Women in Prison, were extremely encouraging. The evaluation, led by Prof. Loraine Gelsthorpe of the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge University, found that of the nine women to move on from the project, eight had been reunited with their children. Moreover, none of these women had re-offended.
Success at the Re-Unite project has seen:
- 23 women move through the project
- 10 out of the 23 have moved on successfully and eight are still accessing the project
- 30 children have been and are still being supported successfully
A major aim for Commonweal is to replicate successful solutions gained from each project we invest in. Evidence of Re-Unite’s success secured a further £300,000 from a number of grant-giving trusts to extend HfW’s delivery of the south London project for a further three years until 2014.
Elsewhere in the UK we are gaining momentum with similar project agreements either in place or currently being finalised with the following partners:
- Asha Centre, Worcester
- Together Women, Yorkshire and Humberside
- Threshold , Greater Manchester
- Isis Women’s Centre, Gloucestershire
- Anawim, Birmingham
In addition to housing organisations such as Housing for Women and Threshold, the Re-Unite model is increasingly being viewed as a core part of service delivery for the network of nationwide Women’s Community Centres, represented by Women’s Breakout. These centres work with women in or at risk of involvement with the criminal justice system. To ensure we capture and then replicate further learning and successes from each project, we have commissioned Prof. Gelsthorpe and her team to continue evaluating the project.