Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice

BARRY FLANAGAN (HMP Wymott)

BARRY FLANAGAN (HMP Wymott)

COMMENDEE 2019-20: Barry is the Programme Manager at HMP Wymott’s Recycling Lives Academy. He is granted a Commendation for his inspirational leadership of a team transforming the lives of prisoners, both in custody and after release.

Barry is the Programme Manager at HMP Wymott’s Recycling Lives Academy, described as “the most effective offender rehabilitation programme of its kind in the UK.” He is Commended for leading a team delivering “unrivalled results”, including reducing reoffending rates to less than 5% and increasing employment rates to more than 70% for the hundreds of men and women they support.

The initial nominator, and key worker for the Recycling Lives programme, Robert Thackray explains that the Recycling Lives programme “is operational in 11 UK prisons, including HMP Wymott where it has two HMP Academies. The Academies create employment for up to 300 men and women at a time in recycling or fabrication workshops, allowing each to develop their life and work skills. Participants earn an enhanced wage, have opportunities to achieve qualifications and have support to secure work and housing ready for release.”

Barry works closely with all stakeholders of the programme, and his role includes “supporting the men and women to understand their personal circumstances and wants and needs; leading the team responsible for supporting offenders, helping them to develop skills in the workshops and secure work, housing and additional support on release; developing relationships with employers to offer placements and employment to offenders; partnering with statutory services to develop pathways for offenders to access specialist support; and working with prison and government officials to champion the HMP Academies programme and identify opportunities to expand into new prisons.”

Robert adds:

“Barry has risen through the ranks to lead the programme and is responsible for changing the lives of many hundreds of men and women since he began the role…He leads by example and knows every single person on the programme and is personally involved in all of their journeys.”

Alasdair Jackson, Butler Trust Local Champion and Chief Executive of Recycling Lives Social Enterprise, says:

“Barry’s knowledge and skills have meant so much to many men and women coming through the Recycling Lives programme. He leaves no stone unturned to get people back on track and into independent living… Barry is so much more than a programme manager. He is a mentor, coach, brother, father, and counsellor rolled into one.”

Barry is described as “the man who is responsible for enabling our men to learn skills, earn money, increase their self-esteem and develop a work ethic which means they have the best possible chance of succeeding upon release… He knows what the men are going through and can speak to them at a level which they understand and appreciate. He has played a massive part in taking the programme from a small trial at HMP Kirkham to the model which now exists in 11 prisons with plans for more. His knowledge of how the system works has been integral to that growth.”

“Barry is more than a manager though. He knows the men and women individually and develops their plans with them. He is there is good times and in bad, both during sentence and, upon release. He is respected by his team as well and he has developed them to have the same empathy and standards of care that he does. He epitomises everything we should be doing for our men and women.”

Barry’s wealth of knowledge and trusted relationships “are matched by the deep empathy he has for the men and women he works with. His expertise comes from both professional and personal experience… His own experiences mean he is compassionate, patient and understanding and is a real role model to the men and women he is supporting.”

The nomination adds that “Barry leaves no stone unturned to get the best possible result for every person he works with, both inside prison and out in the community. The men respect Barry as he has walked in their shoes and does not promise things he cannot deliver. He knows what makes them tick and uses that knowledge to do the best for them. He leads his team from the front and demands the same standards of them that he does of himself. This means that they too, will go the extra mile to ensure the programme participants become valuable members of society again. He wants nothing more than for people to succeed and is incredibly good at making that happen.

One of Barry’s former charges, Ian*, an ex-offender and Recycling Lives programme graduate, adds his own heartfelt testimonial:

“Without Barry’s initial intervention I would not have even known about the Recycling Lives programme. He explained everything to me and showed me what was possible for my life even though I was sat in a Cat C prison. He was there every step of the way with me and helped me achieve my goals. Without him I would not now be driving a crane in my dream job and living in my own home. I would not have reconnected with my family and made them proud again. He is an inspiration.”

Wymott’s Governor Graham Beck is also full of praise, explaining Barry’s work has enabled Recycling Lives to develop into “a role model for businesses with a desire to deliver social responsibility to the very highest standards… He has a talent for approaching issues creatively and finding positive ways for people to succeed, and this is his unique contribution.” He adds that “Barry has been instrumental in helping many, many people navigate their own personal journeys out of the criminal justice world and back out to society and their families.”

Barry himself says that he doesn’t believe “just because I am here to manage the staff that I shouldn’t intervene when there is a need to either support the participants or prevent potential problems, particularly if any individual presents with some issues that could have a negative impact on the work we are trying to achieve.” He explains that “I often find myself sitting down with participants talking through the issues they have that is causing them to think negatively about their future and finding interventions we can implement to ensure they get back on track with a positive outlook on their future.”

Barry notes that his focus, year after year, has been to develop the department “to address more and more barriers participants present with that prevent them from achieving their goals – one part of our work that I’ve really pushed to develop is our wrap-around support for families, helping our participants with their children or parents.” He then adds some poignant remarks:

“I’ll be honest, sometimes the low spirits and lack of hope of the men and women we work with can flatten my own spirits – I know these people have been let down so many times before – but when I can be with them when they succeed, the pride I feel, having seen them grow and succeed – I honestly feel like a proud parent I’ve been with people experiencing all sorts – preventing a suicide attempt, or starting out on a journey of abstinence from substances.”

Barry says that when he “sits with an individual who is saying ‘there is no point in me changing…’ or ‘no one will give me a chance…’ my lived experience enables me to demonstrate that anything is possible. It starts with believing in yourself and allowing yourself to trust the person who holds the keys to your freedom.”

The results are impressive: “Year-on-year since 2016 I have seen more and more releases coming through the programme almost doubling each year – we’re now working with over 100 releases per year, but we have been able to keep consistency in our results with still only 4% of those individuals reoffending.”

Barry concludes by saying:

“I believe it is an honour in itself that the Prison Service allow me to do my job and go in to the prisons to make a difference to so many people’s lives. I am proud to be part of a service that not only promotes rehabilitation but allows people like myself to return and use lived experience to enable men and women to achieve what I have in my life. Now I am in a position that I have friends who are prison officers and police officers – that is something that I never thought I would hear myself say!”

As this Commendation demonstrates, remarkable change really is possible – as Winston Churchill famously remarked: “there is a treasure, if you can only find it, in the heart of every man.”

* Names have been anonymised.

 

With thanks to HMP & YOI Wymott and Recycling Lives, especially initial nominator and Key Worker for the Recycling Lives Programme Robert Thackray, Butler Trust Local Champion and Chief Executive of Recycling Lives Social Enterprise Alasdair Jackson, ex-offender and Recycling Lives programme graduate Ian, and Wymott Governor Graham Beck, for their contributions.

Top of the page