Over the past 4 years The Care Leavers Association (CLA) has been developing a work stream that focuses on improving the lives of care leavers in the criminal justice system (CJS). Through funding from NOMS and the Tudor Trust we have been working throughout the CJS.  The focus of this work stream is the relationship between the care leaver, their care experiences, the CLA worker and the wider community. These aspects are developed in a series of one to one sessions, as a series of modules. These are complimented with group work to provide a space for the care leaver to take more control and ownership of their own story, develop a collective understanding of their experiences, recognising they are not alone and, using this new found confidence to positively direct them in other aspects of daily life. Out of this we have developed a specific program designed to empower care leavers in the CJS to take more control over their lives.

The programme

Clear Approach: Care Leavers Empowerment Program

This work stream succeeds by engaging in a positive and supportive relationship with the care leaver to explore their past care experiences. It gives them permission to speak about it in a safe and supportive environment, relates care to past and present offending, not as cause and effect but so as to ask the young care leaver to accept that positive choices can be made within what might seem like poor circumstances. This empowers them to see how they can be responsible for their own life outcomes if they make the right choices. In doing so the work stream affords the opportunity to understand what support the young care leaver needs from service providers to realise their own life choices and it affords the young care leaver the opportunity to frame and re-frame their own life story, taking ownership of it and improving their own self-image, thus increasing their own levels of self-esteem and confidence. This work has demonstrable effects in terms of helping the young person engage with practitioners such as offender managers seeking to steer the young care leaver away from offending. The unique and innovative user led approach is based on the shared experience affording a depth of understanding and awareness that is not necessarily available to other professionals.

The aim is to empower the individual to take control of their life story and use it for positive good. Empowerment is a process that challenges our assumptions about the way things are and can be. It challenges our basic assumptions about power, helping, achieving, and succeeding. . Empowerment occurs at various levels, such as individual, group, and community. To create change we must change individually to enable us to become partners in solving the complex issues facing us. In collaborations based on mutual respect, diverse perspectives, and a developing vision, people work toward creative and realistic solutions. This synthesis of individual and collective change is our understanding of an empowerment process. We see this inclusive individual and collective understanding of empowerment as crucial in this work stream where empowerment is the goal and this is best delivered when recognising a user led approach is a key factor in achieving change.

We are currently delivering Clear Approach at the Intensive Alternatives To Custody project of Cheshire and Greater Manchester CRC. The work was evaluated by Manchester Met and Lancaster University Clear Approach Report Final