Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEES 2020-21: Ben Eaton, Sue Kidney and Parmit Singh Rai are the powerful trio at the heart of an innovative housing-led project, STAR (Supporting Transformation and Resettlement) which is already having striking success in helping transform and resettle male offenders. STAR is a clever combination of locality and the people driving it – Ben, Sue, and Parmit – and the results they are already achieving speak eloquently of their energy and passion.
Kaye Knowles, Deputy Head of Service for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, is the Initial Nominator, and outlines the inspiring scheme and the contributions of each Butler Trust Winner in some detail, which is worth sharing at length given its pioneering potential:
“STAR provides nine self-contained and two shared flats for a total of 13 male residents located on the two floors above the Derby probation office at Burdett House, a base for teams working for the Reducing Reoffending Partnership (RRP), which owns and manages the Community Rehabilitation Company known as the Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Rutland CRC. The scheme is a partnership project jointly delivered by RRP and YMCA Derbyshire and jointly funded by RRP, NPS and Derby Homes and Derby City Council’s housing team.
“The STAR Project is a shining example of an innovative approach of working with a group of male service users, many with repeat experiences of custody and periods of homelessness. This group is often regarded as the hardest to reach and motivate. The success of STAR is due to its team of dedicated staff who work tirelessly and are determined to show what can be achieved when residents are provided with the right environment, incentives and guidance.
“Each team member has a specific role and brings a different work experience that combines to provide a comprehensive provision, but each colleague shares the same qualities of resilience, ingenuity and the ability to make tough decisions when a resident is beginning to show signs of disengagement.
“Parmjit Singh Rai is a Housing & Welfare Case Worker, who delivers the Rehabilitation Activity Requirement (RAR) called ‘Getting a Home and Keeping a Home’ which offers practical help and guidance to residents that will enable them to progress into independent living.
“Community Supporter Worker Ben Eaton has lived experience and was a former service user. He is now employed by RRP to challenge and motivate residents in addition to providing practical support in the community. Sue Kidney is the YMCA Housing Navigator who takes a lead in the practical side of operating the residential project.
“The team as a whole are committed to achieving the best possible outcome for the residents and the project.
“Finding suitable accommodation for service users can be a real struggle for probation practitioners when they are trying to place an individual with a chaotic lifestyle history. STAR has now been operational for over a year and a half and has supported 58 residents in this time with a positive move-on rate for 21 individuals. There are 11 residents currently with the project. The impact of the project can be measured in a range of positive outcomes for individual residents and comparisons with the general caseload reoffending rate is very encouraging, particularly when comparing multiple and complex needs. This is testament to the hard work and commitment from the STAR team members.”
Sarah Brookes, HMPPS Contract & Governance Manager, and Butler Trust Local Champion, shared impressive testimony from colleagues about the team’s work. Head of Operations, Ben Wild, praises the team for putting “their heart and soul into the STAR project.” He says their experience and skills “complement one another perfectly and, together, they provide exactly the type of support that helps the residents at STAR progress and thrive. Sue brings her experience of residential support and provides exactly the right balance of care and challenge, keeping firm but fair boundaries and offering a constant listening ear. Parmjit is a highly skilled housing practitioner – his in-depth knowledge of housing legislation and local provision means that he is able to successfully support positive move-ons from the project and prepare STAR residents for independent living. He also runs a mean weekly cookery session that has become a firm favourite with residents! Ben completes the trio with his calm and supportive approach – he works alongside residents helping them to take small steps towards a better future, using his own lived experience to empathise and inspire progression. Together they are a powerful combination!”
Another colleague, Probation Officer Elizabeth Gilchrist, is impressed by Ben and Sue’s “amazing on-hand support” and Parm’s “wealth of knowledge and experience”.
Sarah notes that each of the STAR team “shares the same qualities of resilience, ingenuity and the ability to make tough decisions when a resident is beginning to show signs of disengagement. The project’s staff are committed to maintaining the integrity and effectiveness of their programme and will recommend a resident leaves if the team feel their motivation has waned and their actions are impacting on the remaining community.”
The project recently created a new communal lounge space where staff and residents meet every morning to have coffee and chat informally about the day’s appointments for the residents and any other issues that the service users would like to raise. Sarah says this space “has helped to break down barriers particularly with new participants.” Activities include ‘Getting a Home and Keeping a Home’, offering practical help and guidance like “teaching life skills and cooking” to help residents transition to independent living.
The results Sarah details are striking: As of June 2020, STAR had 58 referrals with 21 successful transfers into more permanent housing. The caseload reoffending rates are particularly notable:
|Need||Caseload Reoffending Rate||STAR Reoffending Rate|
|Unsettled Accommodation & Homelessness||79%||40%|
|Multiple Complex Needs||62%||20%|
The residents are enthusiastic, too, with one reporting “I was living in an overcrowded house with my parents and siblings. I moved into the project in October 2019 and now I really have a sense of independence for the first time. I feel in a better and more positive mood. I know there is help here, and I have learnt what I need to do when I have a place of my own. I am confident enough now to start bidding for council properties.”
Sarah adds that many of the residents “can be classified as being hard to motivate with chaotic lifestyle histories. A large part of the project’s success lies in the total commitment and belief of staff members in the potential of STAR to really make a positive impact on the lives of the participants.” It’s a team, she says, “that supports each other and brings their own individual strengths that deliver an outstanding working ethos, which challenges and motivates both the residents to seek positive changes in their lives, and inspires confidence in our fellow contributing partners.”
A sense of how great teamwork is powering the project can be found in Parmjit and Ben’s own words which generously emphasise their colleagues:
Parmjit says of Susan and Benjamin that “I can rely on them at all times,” and notes “the team’s enthusiastic approach and willingness to get the job done. We believe in nurturing a community spirit within the project and prior to the pandemic were quite successful in doing so by arranging group activities for the residents.” The STAR Project, he adds, “has been a unique example of what can be done when agencies like YMCA join forces with Probation to deliver accommodation options for our service users that would otherwise not have been an option.” He concludes “I am proud to be working alongside Sue and Ben whose commitment to help others is truly inspirational.”
Ben calls Sue and Parm “a pleasure to work with”, and calls them “extremely passionate and very experienced.” He says “day-to-day working with the STAR Project is, and has been a brilliant experience for me. Between myself, Parm and Sue, we have been able to support and enable Service User’s make many positive changes and settle back in to the community.” He concludes by saying “I can speak for the team when I say WE WANT TO HELP and staff are of course there for general support, motivation and encouragement.”