Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEE 2013-14: Probation Service Officer: for skill and dedication in addressing the move-on housing needs of offenders in Approved Premises.
[Eve-Marie Furness gives her account of the work for which she won her Commendation]
Receiving a Butler Trust Commendation inspired my passion for my work. Paying attention to engaging housing providers in working together towards the successful move-on of Approved Premises residents into the community. Seeking landlords that are joint working and that provide a high standard of accommodation. No previous benchmarks, addressing a need for risk reduction management through settled accommodation for high risk offenders.
The Greater Manchester Probation Trust had identified a need to assist residents with move-on. In 2010 I was seconded to the position of Approved Premises Accommodation Officer, I developed an Approved Premises move-on scheme to provide a reliable source of high standard accommodation for high risk offenders.
My work has had a positive impact on the offenders using the accommodation, and reducing the risk of re-offending.
My role has developed over a period of 4 years, and was initially a seconded position, and recently was made a permanent role. I had no previous bench marks and I have built the working practices and processes from scratch to finally achieve a bank of landlords that actively cooperate to provide accommodation.
I have spent valuable time negotiating with landlords and developing partnership working. I engage with supported accommodation providers and ensure that relevant risk information is shared.
I have also set up a Bond Scheme for the sole use with Approved Premises residents and this has been developed by gaining funds from the Probation Trust. The benefits of the bond scheme are primarily to provide a deposit for private landlords, as residents whom have spent time in custody are often unable to raise any funds towards their move-on.
The bond scheme is also financially beneficial to the Approved Premises Division as it significantly reduces bed blocking and the knock on effect of future releases from custody.
Approved Premises residents have been released from custody after serving long sentences and are a high risk of harm. The benefits of my role are to gain move-on accommodation into the community and to move residents away from the institutional setting of custody and Approved Premises, and to enable them to re-build their lives.
What I identified as priority need for the move-on of Approved Premises residents.
The statistics were monitored and initiatives were reviewed on a quarterly and annual basis. The findings provided vital information and outstanding results, evidencing that private accommodation was the way forward. As a result of this i developed the bond scheme.
Approved premises have a 16 week ruling, and unless there are issues in relation to risk, it is expected that a resident would move-on at this time. This highlighted the requirement to act fast to avoid bed blocking.
I work alongside many accommodation providers, ensuring the quality of accommodation is to a high standard, i work closely with Offender Managers, Police and regularly attend Multi Agency Public Protection Panels, I assist in the management and monitoring of risk of offenders within the community that have move-on through the bond scheme or with one of my partner landlords.
The success of the scheme has been my drive towards improving the services offered to Approved Premises residents, and negotiating with landlords in the private sector. Having no benchmarks has allowed me to implement methods of good practice in developing a scheme that meets peoples needs, and identifying issues and working towards reducing re-offending and public protection, by way of gaining suitable, affordable accommodation.
[The following article appeared in issue 6 of the Butler Trust’s magazine, Inspire]
Eve-Marie Furness of Greater Manchester Probation Trust has been commended for her work in providing a place to live for people moving on from approved premises and helping to lower reoffending rates as a result. She’s built relationships with local landlords and social housing organisations – challenging the prejudices and assumptions of people who often had little understanding of the criminal justice system – and has had great success in arranging for sex offenders and other high-risk prisoners to be safely moved on.
‘The majority of my clients have spent lengthy periods in custody and this can mean that they have never had the responsibility of having their own accommodation, and do not have the skills to manage independent living,’ says Eve-Marie.
As well as working closely with the police, she’s also developed a specialist housing advice service and delivers housing surgeries in approved premises for those looking for move-on accommodation, helping to streamline previously unwieldy processes that involved duplication of effort by several different agencies carrying out assessments of each offender.
According to Assistant Chief Executive Joe Tumelty, Eve-Marie has shown ‘commitment, flexibility and tenacity in delivering a specialist accommodation service for offenders who present a high risk of harm to the public’, as well as making a valuable contribution to risk management. Probation Operations Manager Sean Hunt, meanwhile, said that she has shown ‘skill, tenacity and good humour’ as well as an understanding of the ‘complex housing situation in Manchester’ – one that is constantly changing as a result of shifting market conditions and new legislation.
‘I look at all my clients as individuals and not as a “problem”,’ says Eve-Marie. ‘Offenders who move on to suitable, affordable accommodation are more likely to engage with services and stop reoffending, compared to someone who is homeless and without support networks in place.’