Finding home after prison – the Integrated Offender Management scheme
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All this week, we are focusing on the Integrated Offender Management (IOM) scheme – a national project which brings together the police and other agencies like local authorities and Probation to work with offenders just out of prison to help them rehabilitate and break the habit of breaking the law.
Finding an offender a home when they are released, is one of the main elements of the initiative.
Emily Denton is the Offender Housing Officer for Wiltshire Council. It’s her job to help inmates prepare for life outside of prison by finding them accommodation when they are released.
Emily said: “My role in the IOM programme is to support offenders, who often have complex needs like mental health or drug problems, by securing them somewhere to stay.
“I do this by working with the offender, along with other agencies like the police, Probation, housing associations, private landlords and other local authorities, before they leave prison so the right type of accommodation can be found for them.
“About 12-weeks before release, I will start the wheels in motion by discussing the inmate’s needs so we can tie up the most appropriate services for them – and that includes the right sort of place to stay.”
Helping prisoners adjust can be a long process
Supporting the inmate is not just a case of simply handing someone a set of keys on their release - all their concerns and issues need to be addressed.
Emily gives an example of one particular success story: “We recently had a case of a 42-year-old man, let’s call him Peter, who had been in prison since he was 21. In that time, he had only been released twice and in each case that only lasted two weeks before he was back inside.
“Peter was institutionalised, he didn’t want to be left alone. So, we worked with him – firstly, finding him temporary accommodation while he reconnected with his brother, rebuilding their relationship.
“After six months we managed to match a property with Peter, one that was nearer to his brother. And, he has gone from strength to strength since. He now has a full-time job – the first time in his life - and is gaining his independence.
“It may sound like an everyday thing to most people but for Peter – having been locked in a regimented institution day in, day out for half his life – the simplest things, like taking a bus, was very difficult for him at first.
“We got around that one by his brother putting him on at the start of a short journey and then meeting him a few stops along; slowly the journeys got longer and so his confidence about using public transport increased.”
The IOM scheme doesn’t stop working with offenders once they are back in society – all the agencies concerned continue to support individuals long-term.
IOM is a helpful bridge
Mark Wilkinson, from Wiltshire Police, who helps run the IOM programme in the county, said: “This scheme identifies what help a person requires and supporting agencies work side by side with police and Probation to address those needs.
“The ultimate objective is to cut neighbourhood crime - reducing victims of crime, making society a safer place and reducing police deployments to repeat offenders. To date there have been several success stories of former criminals who have successfully broken their cycle of criminality.”
Emily Denton said: “I stay in touch with my clients and continue to work with them.
“I really enjoy my job – helping people rebuild their lives and to ultimately get a safe place to live, a home.
“The lives of a lot of people I work with can be chaotic and so I feel IOM can be that all important bridge between the person and all the other agencies who can help.”