Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEE 2019-20: Yvonne is a Manager with Recycling Lives at HMP/YOI Styal and is granted a Commendation for her caring approach and dedication, not only as a manager, but also as a “mentor and role model” to the women there.
Yvonne is a Recycling Lives HMP Academy Manager at HMP & YOI Styal, a women’s prison and young offenders institute. She receives her Commendation as someone “who is so much more than just a manager. She is a mentor and role model, supporting, guiding and advocating for the women in her workshop. She takes on all roles, not just leader, teacher or coach but also a friend, sister or mother figure, to help women though their time in prison and into work, housing and stable lifestyles on release.”
Initial nominator and Head of Reducing Re-offending, Anastasia Selby, explains that, as a manager for the Recycling Lives HMP Academy at Styal, Yvonne supervises up to 20 women at a time, but “is so much more than just a manager though. She is a mentor and role model, supporting, guiding and advocating for the women in her workshop. She takes on all roles, not just leader, teacher or coach but also a friend, sister or mother figure, to help women though their time in prison and into work, housing and stable lifestyles on release.”
Anastasia adds that Yvonne is uniquely placed to excel in her role as an ex-offender. “She is the first ever woman to work in the same prison in which she was once held as an offender. Yvonne spent years in and out of HMP Styal [but] after five years of proving her work ethic and developing skills in operation roles, communication and people management, she was approached by her company to run its HMP Academy in HMP Styal.”
Recycling Lives, explains Anastasia, “combines both a recycling business and a social enterprise delivering charitable programmes. Its HMP Academies programme is an effective employer-led offender rehabilitation programme. It delivers a re-offending rate of less than 5% for the men and women it supports across 11 prisons. The HMP Academy in Styal is a recycling workshop, processing hundreds of tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment for businesses including BT.”
The work involves the women dismantling and separating waste items to recycle metals, plastics and glass. Yvonne supervises the work, “helping the women to develop soft work skills like time management, communication and problem solving as well as sector specific skills. She also supports each to address personal problems and work with the right statutory or support services, including managing mental health, overcoming substance misuse or addressing offending behaviours.”
Anastasia says “Yvonne’s background and experiences give her unrivalled empathy and understanding of the situations the women in her workshop face, making her a real role model able to offer both professional and personal advice. Yvonne understands better than most the value of purposeful employment and positive relationships and peer groups in rehabilitation. She is an inspiration to the women, and proves that change really is possible.”
The women in her care are unanimous in their admiration for her. For example, ‘Y’, who has been released and is working for Recyling Lives in the community says:
“I was really inspired by Yvonne. In the workshop pay was good, but it was more the way Yvonne treated us and the positive atmosphere. She teaches us that hard work will pay off.”
Yvonne has also been recognised with other awards, both within the prison and regionally, including earning an award in the prison’s Performance Recognition programme, after being nominated by the women in her workshop for “increasing our confidence and giving us hope for the future”. She also won a Special Commendation in Downtown Lancashire’s Women in Business Awards 2016.
Butler Trust Local Champion and Head of Business Assurance Sarah Elliott says Yvonne “is seen as an exceptional role model to the women [who] has demonstrated that you can change your life around and actively supports and encourages the women to strive for a better life proving that it is possible by leading by example.”
Sarah adds that Yvonne “is an inspirational person” who is “resilient and determined to demonstrate that there are opportunities for women in custody following release. Yvonne is the first women to return to an establishment as an employee which is a huge achievement and a credit to her determination.”
Another resident, ‘T’, says:
“Yvonne was amazing when I was in the HMP Academy. We were all a bit scared first going to work in there and she made it a lot easier for us all. She supported me through everything and since I’ve come out, she’s been to see to me to see how I’m getting on.”
While ‘R’ added:
“If it wasn’t for Yvonne I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. I always felt very comfortable to talk to her and you can really connect with her. She’s lived both sides of it so she really understands. Her job is so much more than just a job. She even picked me up from the gate on the day I left prison.”
Deputy Governor Steve Paice calls Yvonne “a real inspiration and a model of what can be achieved with hard work, dedication and a positive attitude.” He adds that “Yvonne is more than just an instructor and workshop lead, she takes time to drive, motivate and foster a sense of hope and purpose. Having spoken to Yvonne on a number of occasions about her journey, the challenges and barriers should not be underestimated.”
He concludes, “We are extremely fortunate to have our partnership with the Recycling Lives Academy and even more so to have such a valuable asset in Yvonne.”
With thanks to HMP & YOI Styal and Recycling Lives, especially initial nominator and Head of Reducing Re-offending Anastasia Selby, residents Y, R, and T, Butler Trust Local Champion and Head of Business Assurance Sarah Elliott, and Deputy Governor Steve Paice, for their contributions.