Southern Co-op backs community projects to tackle causes of crime

Projects include healthcare and accommodation for the homeless, skills-building for offenders and help for young people at risk of crime

As part of its efforts to tackle crime, Southern Co-op is sharing £135,000 of funding among 18 projects which work to cut reoffending rates.

This follows an initial investment of £100,000 by the retail society in 2020, which it says has led to more than 1,300 people being supported – including offenders and those at risk of offending.

According to four of the projects working with offenders, their estimated reoffending rates were between 0% and 4.2% – a significant reduction from the national average of 24%.

Gemma Lacey, Southern’s director of sustainability and communications, said: “We have tried our best to support as many community projects as possible in this latest round of funding and are pleased to see such a passionate group of organisations all doing their best to help people in need.

“Projects include healthcare and accommodation for the homeless, skills building for offenders, help for young people at risk or already involved in crime, and much more.

“The majority of people don’t choose a life of crime so we hope these programmes will give them the chance they need to break out of the vicious circle which so often has a tragic ending.”

The Safer Neighbourhood Fund has been co-ordinated with the help of Neighbourly, a giving platform where businesses can donate volunteer time, money, and surplus products to their communities.

Organisation include Star Recovery, a network of churches and other partner organisations in Bournemouth and Poole which deliver appropriate support for those affected by addiction, poor mental health or compulsive behaviours. Following a two-year pilot, the charity is moving to the next step of training and equipping early adopters, such as church groups, to expand their reach as far as possible to help those, and their family, in recovery.

Project director Emma Heath said: “We see the positive impact in upskilling churches and communities with knowledge of how to tackle this growing crisis of addiction in our locality, and this vital funding has enabled our staff team to increase hours that they can dedicate to the expansion of Star locally.

“This will in turn provide volunteer teams with heightened confidence in this often misunderstood area of need and will help many more people to access life changing support. Already this funding is making a difference to how we operate and we are expectant to see how this will help us more in the coming year.”

In Bristol, Help Bristol’s Homeless (HBH) is another local organisation benefitting from the funding and its mission is to change the face of homelessness in Bristol. It provides temporary accommodation in micro flats which are converted shipping containers for more than 15 residents until they can each move on to a more permanent home.

Catherine Raspail, from HBH, said: “Residents are offered multiple services as well as access to some therapeutic care via the support of a holistic therapist and a nurse based in our Well-Being centre.

“Most residents at HBH have been badly affected by traumas and often have difficulty discussing their mental health needs with a GP or access the relevant services due to their homeless status.

“We aim to bridge that gap by offering them a ‘caring space’ where they can be heard and seen. By offering one to one support and a person-centred approach, we want to encourage the residents to take ownership of their physical, emotional and mental health, helping them to move on from criminal behaviour, addiction and homelessness.

“The funding will bring some additional support to residents who attend the Well-Being centre and allow for the offerings to be more diverse, from group gym training sessions, therapeutic touch, mindfulness and compassionate enquiries workshops and more.”

In Southampton, Saints Foundation is using the power of Southampton Football Club to connect with the local community and help people lead happier, healthier and more empowered lives. The funding will support the Saints Switching Play programme, a youth intervention and diversion programme focusing on breaking the cycle of youth violence, whilst providing those aged 14-17 with the tools to thrive within the community and overcome life challenges. The programme is delivered in partnership with the Youth Justice Service and Missing, Exploited and Trafficked team in Southampton.

Fraser Ford, interventions coordinator at Saints Foundation, said: “We’re delighted to receive funding from the Safer Neighbourhood Fund that supports our work to make the streets of Southampton a safer place for all.

“This funding will allow us to work with young people with complex needs over a greater period of time, reinforcing the positive changes they are making to their lives to break the cycle of youth violence. It’s incredibly important that we provide equal opportunities for our young people and find them a safe space in their community with trusted adults.”

Other projects include mobile healthcare services for homeless people, police outreach schemes to school pupils at risk of offending, youth allotments, support for women ex-prisoners, community pastors and a financial inclusion programme for survivors of modern slavery.