Here’s an update on what’s been going on in the last 12 months with my work at Junction 42. I’ve been working part time for this North East Charity since March 2018. My main role is an Outreach Worker with ex-offenders who are out of work. However, I’ve also been teaching art in some of the regions prisons. Since lockdown, I’ve also been developing creative art projects to go in the Faith Packs that have been sent to the UK’s prisons.
In the spring this year, the Work Out Team at Junction 42 completed on 100 referrals from the DWP. These are ex-offenders that were on either Universal credit, Job Seekers Allowance or sickness benefits. We took them through the Action Plan of Mental Health Assessments, CV writing, Disclosure letters, mock interviews, training courses (usually warehousing and forklift), voluntary work and group work.
Up until now, 11 of the 27 clients I completed on during the last contract with the DWP are now in employment. This takes my overall percentage of clients in employment to over 40%. Most of the other clients are either still engaging with us, doing voluntary work or on training courses. Some are simply not work ready and are still addressing mental health issues or addictions. Only two of my clients since I started in March 2018 have gone back to prison. This is well above the UK average, 50% of ex-offenders will go back to prison in one year if they don’t find employment.
In April this year, I took over leading the Work Out Team in Newcastle. It’s a role which involves leading team meetings, writing monthly soft reports, allocating referrals to the team and generally ensuring that the team is being well supported. I have regular one to ones with each team member to make sure they are coping well with their caseload and that they are thriving in their role. I feel very privileged to lead such an amazing team of Outreach Workers who work so hard to help bring hope to our clients lives.
I’ve also been having meetings with external providers who provide us with voluntary work opportunities and training courses. Our reputation as an organization is growing for all the right reasons and we are looking to secure new contracts. Since July this year we picked up another new contract with the DWP which is to complete on 90 referrals. We have until the end of January 2022 to complete on this one. We are already close to being at capacity and are still receiving new referrals on a weekly basis.
Up until the summer this year, I was developing painting and drawing exercises for the Faith Packs that Junction 42 have been putting together for the UK prisons. To date, we have sent over 120,000 of these packs to the prisons throughout the UK. We have a production hub at Brunswick Methodist Church in Newcastle made up of Kickstart employees and volunteers.
Angel of the North
The response has been amazing with many prisoner writing back to us to say what a blessing it has been to them. Each pack contains a UCB Word for Today, a creative art exercise including relevant sewing, drawing and painting materials, testimonies, a worship CD and sometimes a Bible. At Easter, the Creative Activity was drawing the face of Jesus wearing the crown of thorns. I’m blown away by the thought that many prisoners in the UK will have been drawing the face of Jesus. They have also been painting the Angel of the North and Sycamore Gap in watercolors as well as other landscapes and seascapes, animals and faces.
The quality of the paints is not that great because we have had to purchase in bulk as inexpensively as possible. I made sure that what I did as examples for the prisoners to follow was painted with the same paints, brushes and paper that they would be using.
It’s been an amazing year so far and I’m looking forward to seeing how the charity grows beyond the north east. The charity is looking to fill some vacancies, so if you would like to work for a local charity and have a heart for ex-offenders and men and women in prison, then visit the Junction 42 website.