Why having a good life matters

Recently, we spent time with women from the Tomorrow’s Women service in Glasgow looking at what MAKES a good life. Some of the things that people said were important to them were: having a home; having people to love who love you back; feeling able to be with people and work with them without having to be nasty to get what you want; having pets; having a job for independence, money and security and being healthy.

We also looked at what HELPS to make a good life and people suggested: having a routine; getting enough sleep; maintaining focus; eating healthy food; making a home comfortable and safe; feeling able to talk to people and resolve conflicts in positive ways; taking regular exercise and having goals.

When we asked people WHY having a good life mattered they said:

“For security and feeling more stable”.

“Your happiness affects the people who rely on you”.

“Being motivated means you’re more likely to stick to good habits”.

“It’s about making the most of having a second chance”.

“We deserve it like everyone else”.

Partner perspective – Outside the Box

The Moving Forward partnership involves Turning Point Scotland, Community Justice Glasgow and Outside the Box.

Outside the Box is a capacity building organisation that provides independent support to groups and people across Scotland who want to make a difference to their communities.

Together we have been offering small flexible budgets to individuals to help make a difference to their lives. We are working with service users and staff from community justice organisations in Glasgow.

This week we held a workshop at the 218 project which works with women offenders to start thinking about what might help women to move forward in their lives. We decorated masks which led us to consider and discuss what people see when they look at us – what do we project, what assumptions do they make about us and how do we think we appear to the world? We also thought about the things that people don’t see, that we keep to ourselves or that people don’t know about us.

This helped us to think about what we might want from the future, what we want to do next and the things that are important to us in living active and and meaningful  lives.

Some of the things the women chose to spend their budget on include gym membership and workout clothes to help with physical and mental health and wellbeing. Other ideas include help with purchasing decorating supplies in order to make a fresh start at home after the departure of an abusive partner.

Managing small individual budgets in criminal justice settings

Thursday 22nd June 2017 from 9.30am to 12.30pm at Scottish Youth Theatre, Glasgow

The third learning network event will focus on the initial findings of our pilot study which provides small one off payments to individuals involved with criminal justice services. Although our pilot study is not self directed support in the strictest sense (i.e. none of our participants are currently in receipt of SDS funding), our aim is to investigate and illustrate how small sums of money might increase individuals choice and control over their lives with a view to making a positive impact on their offending behaviour. For example, how did the process work? What kind of things did individuals want? What did we learn? What would we change the next time?

We have worked in partnership with a number of third and public sector criminal justice organisations including SACRO, Crossreach, Glasgow City Council and Scottish Prison Service. In addition, our participant workshop sessions were facilitated by Diversity Matters at www.diversity-matters.co.uk

For further information and to book online please click here.


Electronic monitoring – it doesn’t just have to be about punishment


12th August

I recently attended an event organised by Glasgow Community Justice Authority to explore how electronic monitoring is being and could be used in Scotland. Great, I thought this will be my chance to learn about electronic monitoring. What was really useful about the event was that we heard from people with different experiences and perspectives, including Scottish Government, families, and practitioners. We also heard stories and examples from other places and countries.

What surprised me most was that all the speakers talked about electronic monitoring as a tool that can be used in a range of ways. I had just assumed monitoring was all about punishment and restricting people’s activities and movements.

One speaker gave an example of a man who volunteered to have electronic monitoring. He did so because he saw it as an opportunity to live in a different way and away from offending. It not only gave him a reason and excuse to do different things with new people but also have him proof to show to organisations like the police that he wasn’t involved in any unlawful activity.

In the Netherlands, electronic monitoring is being used to encourage and support people to live good and meaningful lives. There is also a requirement and support for individuals to participate in 26 hours a week of activity including working and volunteering.

If electronic monitoring is to be a tool to aid rehabilitation and integration then other things need to be in place alongside it to make it happen and this is where it gets more expensive and more complicated. For individuals to seek out and lead good lives they need skilled people to offer support, encouragement, direction and opportunity. They also need community based options for activities, volunteering, sport and jobs to actively participate in. When these things are in place then electronic monitoring will be a real tool for rehabilitation and integration.

Leaving behind the past


16th September

Yesterday I went along to a Positive Prison? Positive Futures group meeting which brought together a diverse group of people with an involvement or interest in criminal justice. Group meetings are held regularly and are designed to be informal organic discussions with no agenda, no flip charts, no post-it notes and no feedback. All that is required of participants is that they share and learn.

There were brief presentations from several organisations including Families OutsideYouth Community Support Agency and Scottish Canals then we got down to the business of envisioning our ideal future for those involved or affected by criminal justice issues.

Each table was asked to come up with one idea that we could put into action immediately. I was sharing a table with staff from Paws for Progress, Mellow Parenting, Families Outside, Criminal Justice Voluntary Sector Forum and Edinburgh Book Festival.

A major theme of the day was how we can eliminate the stigma of being a ‘former offender’ since this often regarded as an obstacle to individuals being successful in obtaining employment. Anecdotally, people with convictions report that even when they are appropriately qualified and experienced enough to meet job criteria and gain an interview, their past means that they are rarely the ‘preferred candidate’ in an increasingly competitive job market.

Our group produced an idea for an awareness raising campaign around this issue to tie into Youth Community Support Agency’s Twitter campaign #justlikeyou which will be officially launched in November this year. Pooling our organisational expertise and considering our diverse resources, we proposed using common interests and life choices like owning a dog or having children to highlight the links (rather than the differences) between people in general everyday life.

The discussions were lively, informative and good fun and it was a good way of meeting like-minded people working in criminal justice. However we all agreed that there was still a way to go to win over the general public and the media at large who mostly take a judgemental attitude to ‘former offenders’.

Taking a diverse approach to social care

On a recommendation from Debbie McColgan of Inspiring Scotland, I met with Pat Black of Diversity Matters, a voluntary sector organisation based in Edinburgh that builds capacity, facilitates project design, provides training and brings individuals and organisations together to examine ideas and find creative solutions to identified issues.

Diversity Matters work with individuals to identify what makes a good purposeful life for them and with organisations and agencies (e.g. social work departments) to investigate how to accommodate these elements within existing structures and processes.

Some innovative examples of individuals using a ‘personalised’ approach include a former addict who had retrained as a fitness instructor and wanted to cover up older unwanted tattoos that didn’t fit her new more positive body image. Another person needed oils and equipment to train as an acupuncturist and set up her own business. Subsequently she offered free sessions to other former drug users in exchange for the use of a treatment room in a recovery based organisation. One woman wanted to get a passport so she could go abroad for the first time in her life.

A number of small grants (e.g. £100-£200 per person) helped to make these things possible. Perhaps surprisingly, individuals did not ask for larger amounts of ‘free’ money and were keen to return any unspent monies. All recipients of support agreed that the money had helped them to achieve their goals but they also stated that the experience of being trusted was of greater value to them. Additionally, they had been inspired to think creatively about their own lives and had established positive relationships with support agencies for the future.

Diversity Matters works with mixed groups of service users and provider organisations. While it can be difficult for social care professionals to set aside a couple of days for any training or facilitated event, the majority of participants report that they enjoy the process and appreciate the opportunity to think in new and creative ways about their roles. Post event, innovative ways of keeping in touch are used including asking for feedback by text which has resulted in a rapid and high feedback rate, as opposed to traditional survey type questionnaires.