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Pathway Out: building futures for people affected by drugs

A project that aims to provide training skills and employment opportunities to people with an offending past celebrated its first year this month.  Giles Orpen-Smellie, Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), visited St Giles Trust in Norwich on Monday, 16 May, to find out how Pathway Out has helped people since its launch.

The service is jointly funded by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) East Anglia, Norfolk Public Health England (PHE), and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk.

Pathway Out is a community-based provision and works with people who have a lived experience of the criminal justice system and, in particular, with issues caused by addiction to Class A drugs.

Pathway Out provides one-to-one tailored support for up to three months. Before support into employment and training can begin, support workers motivate and empower clients to engage in activities that will improve their ability to manage their lives independently.

Referrals to Pathway Out are received via DWP Work Coaches for those identified as ‘work ready’ and those who are also assigned to the wider Project ADDER* (Addiction, Diversion, Disruption, Enforcement and Recovery) programme, and so are receiving support for drug addiction.

Norfolk’s PCC, Giles Orpen-Smellie, said: “This multi-agency approach is already reaping rewards and proves just how effective outcomes can be for vulnerable people if we all work and co-operate together. As part of my new Police, Crime and Community Safety Plan, one of the main objectives is to prevent offending. Reducing the revolving door of crime by putting in place the support needed to reduce re-offending is key.

“Coming here today and hearing how colleagues collaborate successfully, and listening to Chantelle share her story is very life-affirming and proves that this kind of preventative work needs to continue.”

Clare Bradley, East of England Regional Manager for St Giles Trust, said: “Having the organisations involved in the Pathways Out project come together today to review progress really served to highlight the power of multi-agency working. We all agreed that it is one thing looking at the numbers and seeing the impact a project is having, but it is hearing from the people behind the numbers, like Chantelle, that really demonstrates the enormous difference we can make when we come together with a common aim. We are grateful to all of our partners in this project, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) East Anglia, Norfolk Public Health England (PHE), and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk, for working alongside us to bring this much-needed service to the Greater Norwich area.”

Sally Hughes, Commissioning Manager with Norfolk Public Health, said: “Pathway Out aims to do exactly that: give people who feel trapped in a cycle of re-offending a route out. We know that those who suffer drug addiction are often left with few choices, and by giving them a way out, by combining support for their addiction with help gaining the skills and experience needed to secure employment, we can help break that cycle and give people a better chance to rebuild their lives and the lives of their families.”

Claire Nicol, Prison/Probation Work Coach (Norfolk & Suffolk) & ADDER Team Leader at DWP said: “Through collaborative working with partners involved in the ADDER project, DWP has been proud to support vulnerable people move closer to or into employment. It is well proven that work not only improves mental health but is one of the key factors in maintaining a stable lifestyle, preventing those at risk, of returning to criminality or exploitation from gang culture.”

Pathway Out – Case Study

Chantelle’s story

Chantelle is a 28-year-old mother living in the Norwich area.

Chantelle is bi-polar, suffers from PTSD and at times finds it hard to concentrate.  Four years ago, as a heroin addict trying to cope with a chaotic lifestyle, her two children were put into foster care and, whilst pregnant with her third child, she made the hard decision to put her new-born up for adoption.

In 2021, Chantelle was put in touch with Kate, her support worker from St Giles Trust. This came after a recent police incident. Chantelle had a long history of drug addiction, which she has managed to address with support from various agencies.

“After my arrest, both Kate and Cordelia from St Giles called me to offer support and at the time I wasn’t interested. I’ve always had issues with authority and really struggled when I was in care, but they persisted and checked up on me to see if I was okay.  We had an initial chat with no strings and that was the difference, there were no bad consequences if I didn’t meet them. This time I wanted to do it.

“Before the arrest, I had been volunteering in a charity shop one day a week and had been going to the gym – I could so easily have slipped backwards again.”

Kate built up my confidence and helped me with putting a CV together, I didn’t know where to start.  Here I am at 28 and I’d never had a job before. 

Kate also helped Chantelle with interview technique and managed to get her an interview with Community Chaplaincy Norfolk where she is now undergoing a ten-week peer-mentoring course. She will be working alongside ex-offenders, and their families, to offer support. This will include peer support before release from prison, through the prison gate and beyond, in the wider community.

During the pandemic, through the Pathway Out project, Chantelle voluntarily took part in a recovery workshop. “At first I was scared of taking part because of the cravings but it really was beneficial. Some stuff was common sense, normal life stuff but it was useful, especially things like managing my emotions.  The six-week course was over Zoom which made me feel less anxious, I didn’t feel so awkward. I’ve been ‘clean’ for two and a half years now.

“I’m so glad to have had these opportunities, I’m really excited to have a real job – I can use what I’ve been through to help everybody else. Learning can be overwhelming but once you get into it it’s not. This is a major step forward for me, I feel like an adult now.  I would highly recommend doing this, it’s a life changer.”

Chantelle has more good news to share.  Her two children will be returning home in June.