Assistance as former prisoners return to the community

Published on : 6/10/19
  • Release day can be a daunting time for prisoners, with immediate issues such as a need for travel, accommodation or benefits all increasing the pressure.

    Sodexo-run HMP Peterborough has an established facility that not only provides support on the day of release, but offers continued advice and assistance as former prisoners return to the community.   

    Outside Links was established inside HMP Peterborough in 2013 and expanded just a year later to offer a dedicated ‘in the community’ premises within a few minutes’ walk of the prison. It is one of the strongest examples of Sodexo’s through-the-gate services and of our commitment to reducing reoffending.  

    The Outside Links team - led by Senior Prison Custody Officer Bridget Peeroo - who has been recognised at the highest level internally for her work - provides a catalogue of services for release day delivered by trained resettlement staff within the prison itself. 

    Bridget and her team of peer workers are on hand to explain licence conditions, signpost to benefits services and open lines of communication with probation contacts. 

    Immediate practical considerations can often be the most pressing. From simply providing access to a mobile phone charger and issuing contraception, to handing out travel warrants and arranging free transport to first appointments or train/bus stations, Outside Links addresses these first-day needs.   

    With accommodation often an issue, the team can make emergency appointments with crisis accommodation and liaise with refuges and local councils. Family needs are catered for too, with a waiting area with refreshments. 

    It’s not just on release day that Outside Links makes an impact. Recognising that residents need continued support, as circumstances can inevitably change, the Outside Links ‘in the community’ facility opened in 2014. This drop-in centre opens at 10:30am each morning, after residents being released from prison have been seen by the team.  

    Many former residents return to Outside Links on a regular basis to continue with their initial support and to access additional services, such as up food vouchers, help with applications, meetings with agencies or their probation officer, or to attend special events such as Women Only Wednesdays. 

    To ensure the drop-in centre caters for a complex portfolio of needs, Outside Links partners with a wide range of associations, charities and agencies. These combine to help Sodexo deliver tailored support, including the YMCA, MIND, CLG Aspire drug and rehabilitation services, Shaw Trust, P3 and local food banks. 

    Peer support workers are always available to travel to appointments with reluctant or anxious residents who are meeting to arrange benefits, accommodation or job interviews. 

    As a reflection of Sodexo’s commitment to changing lives for the better, Outside Links in the community is also available for anyone in the local area to use and has become popular with the town’s homeless population and local sex workers. Some of the key attractions for many service users include the ability to use the location as a c/o address, take a shower, collect a fresh set of clothes or free contraception, or take sexual health screening, available bi-monthly.  

    The drop-in centre is open from 10.30am until 5pm Monday to Friday, plus the last Saturday of every month and bank holidays including Christmas - a time when people can be at their most vulnerable. The team is also on hand via a freephone support line available 8am until 5pm. 

    Feedback from those who have benefitted from Outside Links’ services has included: ‘staff went out of their way to support me’, ‘very helpful and welcoming’ and ‘best support I have ever had with finances and medical.’ One resident confessed that ‘if it was not for the Outside Links I would have returned to prison'.

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