Step One Charity and CFO3: Making a difference in the lives of those leaving the justice system

Woman smiling outdoors

Since 2015, Step One Charity has worked with Shaw Trust to deliver the CFO3 project, a voluntary programme designed to provide support to prisoners across Devon who are preparing for release and help them successfully reintegrate into the community. With support from His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and partial funding from the European Social Fund (ESF), CFO3 has had a significant impact on the lives of individuals involved.

Over the past eight years of the CFO3 contract, our team has enrolled 1,017 participants, but this doesn’t account for the transfers we also supported. Alongside these enrolments, we successfully facilitated 731 bespoke support sessions and 238 educational, skills or development courses. Given our focus on working with the hardest to reach population, we managed to assist 54 individuals in achieving employment.

Our dedicated Case Managers have provided tailored one-to-one, person-centered support aimed at generating the skills, confidence, and self-belief necessary to promote social inclusion. Their expertise has helped prisoners develop their CVs, secure employment, access housing and other essential services, as well as address addiction and mental health challenges. The commitment of our Case Managers extends to individuals in custody and those transitioning back into the community. Through their guidance, participants achieve greater stability, social inclusion, and employment prospects, ultimately reducing the likelihood of re-offending.

In addition to our comprehensive support through the CFO3 project, Step One Charity also offered the Let’s Talk Programme to individuals. Accredited by Highfield Qualifications, this program equips participants in custody and the community with essential skills for managing their mental health and promoting long-term wellbeing.

As an organisation, we have worked hard to respond to the current global crisis and provided additional training for staff whilst creating bespoke material to enable us to reach out online and increase the number of people that we are able to help and support. Through our efforts over the past eight years, we have built hope, connections, and promoted resilience in those seeking a fresh start.

Support for Supporters Initiative

Amidst our commitment to helping individuals transition from the justice system, we also prioritise our team’s emotional wellbeing. The Support for Supporters initiative, funded by Devon Community Foundation, empowers our CFO3 Case Managers through personalised therapies, outdoor peer support, and nature-based activities. Our sessions with an outdoor therapist on Dartmoor who has experience in the prison environment has enhanced our team’s resilience and provides a refreshing break from confinement.

Three women walking outdoors

Step One Charity’s CFO3 team: Emma, Megan and Erin on a nature wellbeing walk around Burrator Reservoir.

Voices of those we’ve helped:

“When you took the time to just stop and ask if I was okay before going home, it really meant a lot. You guys really care about people, which makes me feel human.”

“I just wanted to thank you so much for your help in getting me this job, it would not have been possible this quick without it, and I really appreciate your help.”

“When I was first introduced to the CFO3 team at HMP Dartmoor my expectations were incredibly low. Years of being in the system had reinforced my own image that as a prisoner I was the lowest form of life. For the first time since I entered prison, CFO3 gave me hope for life beyond the gate. Erin and Megan always treated me with professionalism and encouragement wrapped in discretion. The rarity of this genuine attitude cannot be overstated. For the first time, I have motivation and self-reliance for my future which they have helped to develop through their humanity. Both Erin and Megan are a credit to the profession and are outstanding ambassadors of CFO3.”

“Thanks to you, I am going to come full circle and use my life skills and mistakes to help others choose a different route in life.”

Feedback from HMPPS Staff:

“The work CFO3 undertakes gives hope. It provides our prisoners with a sense of hope that they can leave prison and lead constructive lives that contribute to society in a positive way!”

“At HMP Dartmoor, and specifically within the Reducing Reoffending function, we encourage a holistic approach between our various teams and stakeholders, and our CFO3 colleagues fully embrace this. They are fully committed to supporting those on their caseload, and the passion they show to delivering the best outcomes they can is commendable.” – Michael Walker, HoRR, HMP Dartmoor

“CFO3 are an invaluable asset to the resettlement work that we undertake with prisoners at HMP Dartmoor. The staff have a great understanding of the support that is required for prisoners being released from custody and positive working relationships with community organisations enabling easy access to useful resources and practices. The successful release of prisoners into the community can often be attributed to the foundational work undertaken by CFO3.” – James Richardson, POM, HMP Dartmoor

“CFO3 are an integral part of our Education, Work and Skills provision here at HMP Dartmoor. The team work with effective partnership across both the Education and Work delivery in order to signpost, support and dovetail our services. The team themselves go over and above for their caseload and ensure the best outcomes for prisoners.” – Rachel Bailey, Head of Learning, Skills and Employment, HMP Dartmoor

Case Study: RB’s Story

Despite a positive upbringing and close family ties, RB faced challenges due to limited social skills and an undiagnosed learning disability. These struggles led to isolation and an unfortunate offense. RB’s determination and the support of Step One Charity’s CFO3 team became a turning point. From completing vital courses to volunteering and job hunting, RB’s journey progressed step by step. The tailored guidance he received paved the way for personal development and professional growth.

Case Study: Ben’s Story

We are immensely proud of the transformative journeys and success stories that have emerged from our collaboration with Shaw Trust, HMPPS, and the European Social Fund through our tailored support and guidance. As we approach the end of this chapter, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to all those who have been part of this journey. Together we have made a positive difference, and we remain dedicated to empowering individuals and building stronger, safer communities.

CFO3 Manager, Emma Slater, said: “I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved in the delivery of this contract over its 8-year lifespan. The support that we have been able to give has allowed people to develop, grow, understand themselves a little better and find a place of independence in their local communities. It has been a real privilege to work alongside both staff and participants and we are all very proud of all of the great work that has been done!”

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