Interventions Alliance marks its first anniversary with a renewed focus on substance abuse, mental health and addressing harmful behaviours as it seeks solutions to transform more lives.
By Suki Binning, Chief Social Worker and Executive Director, Interventions Alliance.
Suki is a qualified probation officer, who has previously worked at the Ministry of Justice, the National Offender Management Service and inspectorate on national policy and standards, with more than 22 years’ experience in the field.
When the Government announced that offender management and all associated rehabilitation work were returning to the National Probation Service, it came as a bolt from the blue.
The Seetec Group had garnered significant expertise running Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) in the South East and South West. Suddenly, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, we had one year to safely transfer some 20,000 service users, the associated data, and more than 1,000 probation staff back to the National Probation Service.
Our leadership team quickly made the decision that the experience we had gained, the achievements we had made and the partnerships we had forged to support individuals and communities meant we still had a vital role to play.
One year ago, we launched Interventions Alliance with a clear goal: to help build better futures by addressing the challenges and barriers which hold people back – bridging the gap between criminal justice and social care.
One of our first opportunities arose in Bristol, when we identified a building in which we could develop a specialist residential unit for women coming out of custody, many of whom were homeless with complex needs and requiring high levels of supervision.
Eden House opened in June 2021 and was the first new independent approved premises for custody leavers to open in England and Wales for 33 years. I feel this is the proudest moment of my career and proof of the agility of the private sector to identify and meet unmet needs. Providing accommodation services for those with complex needs was a completely new area for us and one we hope to continue to expand and develop.
The Seetec Group had already been successful in winning Co-Financing Organisation (CFO) contracts to provide Activity Hubs for individuals on their rehabilitation journey in the North West, South East and South West.
Interventions Alliance took on the process of opening these Hubs in Chatham, Hastings, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool and Warrington – providing a wide range of support and services from skills training to employment support.
We quickly identified that substance misuse represented a significant barrier for many of those we sought to support – and the gap in services available. We were able to quickly react to this by creating a specialist team of substance misuse workers to address this need.
This is just one area which demonstrates the agility and flexibility of organisations like Interventions Alliance. The Probation Service has faced a huge challenge over the past year in taking back offender management services. It will take some time before it can begin to fully understand the gaps in provision and what services it needs to commission.
Our close relationships with Kent, Surrey and Sussex police services have seen us continuing to work together to address domestic abuse and another challenging area of need: stalking behaviour.
We have been at the forefront of developing an innovative new intervention model, the only one approved by the British Psychological Society, to reduce reoffending.
Research shows around half of convicted stalkers will repeat the offence* and our Compulsive Obsessive Behaviour Intervention (COBI) examines triggers and behaviours that heighten the risk of reoffending, while helping the individual to develop coping mechanisms and new skills to break their cycle of reoffending.
Alongside our service delivery, we are developing our research capability, focusing on an evidence-led approach to improving services, tackling offending and the common social care challenges that hold people back. Our research so far has included areas such as domestic abuse and mental health.
A key focus as Interventions Alliance enters its second year will be supporting those with complex accommodation needs. Individuals leaving custody often need specialised mental health and substance misuse services, we know NHS services face record demands** and have long waiting lists. We are well placed to help relieve some of this pressure by supporting this cohort.
As part of the employee owned Seetec Group, we can provide a holistic approach as our work supporting individuals with mental health issues is not solely focused on those leaving the criminal justice system, it is equally important to our employability and skills services.
There is a real opportunity now for providers like ourselves to work alongside the National Probation Service offering complementary services and enhancing support to individuals where it is most needed.
We welcome the publication earlier this year of the full prospectus for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which replaces European Social Fund provision. Funding will be key to unlocking the potential of organisations like ours to deliver innovative and effective interventions that help to reduce re-offending and reduce inequalities between communities as part of the government’s levelling-up agenda.
Interventions Alliance has supported over 11,000 service users over the past 12 months.
To find out more about Interventions Alliance: About | Interventions Alliance
Photo: Suki Binning
Notes to Editors:
*Review of Stalking Protection Orders (publishing.service.gov.uk)
**Royal College of Psychiatrists’ research into referrals to specialist mental health services is available here.