An interview with Dawn, Recovery Coordinator at Change Grow Live Leeds
This service offers a pathway to improve the lives of people involved in the criminal justice system. The service also runs a domestic abuse perpetrator group.
Who does the Leeds Criminal Justice service work with?
We work with anyone who has been drug tested while in custody, regardless of the offence. If they test positive, they need to attend two appointments which are enforced.
Another route in is via conditional cautions. Rather than going to court, the person will be given the option to attend the service instead. Our services are tailored towards people who cause the most crime, and also perpetrators of domestic violence.
We also take referrals from the Front Door Safeguarding hub which is the daily Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) safeguarding meeting. This looks at all the high-risk domestic incidents that have been reported in the previous 24 hours, or any new MARAC referrals and an action plan completed.
We take referrals from probation/a community rehabilitation company (CRC) and from the Integrated Offender Management (IOM) police team for any service users involved in the criminal justice system that may require additional support.
How do you liaise with police and probation?
We are based in the same office. There is an IOM inspector and sergeant and police officers within that team. Every morning, we hold a multi-agency meeting to discuss anyone who has been arrested, anyone wanted, due in court, or anyone with issues. It provides a useful snapshot of what is going on. We have a weekly case conference to discuss crimes and offenders in the different areas of the city. All partners involved in cases being discussed are required to feed into these meetings and take actions as agreed in the meeting.
How many people come back to work with you voluntarily?
Around 30% - 40% of people come back to work with us once their mandatory sessions are complete. Substance misuse is a major cause of their offending behaviour. Very often people are in treatment but still living a chaotic lifestyle. Many are historic service users who are stuck in a revolving door of crime and substance misuse. I see some of the same people I saw ten years ago.
Often crime and substance misuse is learned behaviour which is linked to a lack of education, poverty and a lack of opportunity.
Tell me about your domestic violence perpetrator pathway
Our domestic violence pathway is offered to anyone who has been involved in committing an act of domestic abuse. It may be at a low level or it may be someone who has just been released from prison for a more serious domestic-related crime.
Attendance isn’t mandatory for anyone we have in the group. We get many referrals from social care and the majority of people want to work with us on a voluntary basis - although some service users are here because they have been told it’s a condition of gaining contact with their children.
We work with both male and female perpetrators, but we don’t run a mixed group.
What sort of assessments do you carry out with people prior to joining the group?
We always do some preparation work, as we want to work with people who are willing to take some responsibility for their actions. We also need to make sure they are ready to take part in a group setting.
We carry out a full comprehensive assessment as well as one-to-one preparation sessions. We want to understand the actions that led to domestic abuse. For example what happened in the lead-up? How were they feeling? What were they thinking? Can that person see that they could have done something differently to prevent the incident from occurring? What are the things they would like to change and are they ready to make those changes?
People need to have an awareness of the good and the bad, to understand that their relationship would benefit if they worked on their own behaviours.
What happens in the sessions?
The sessions are led by the participants. We cover a different theme for the week and the group agrees how each session will be run. It’s important for participants to share their own thoughts and opinions, and our job is to challenge those views where we feel it is needed.
We have a male and female facilitator, to bring different perspectives. We also encourage participants to challenge each other and that works really well.
The sessions are designed to be flexible and tailored to the needs of the participants. If we think the group would benefit from addressing substance misuse then we include it, but if we have a group where it’s not a contributing factor then we won’t discuss it.
One theme we have incorporated in the sessions is jealousy and insecurity. We look at healthy and unhealthy behaviours and understanding a partner’s perspective - thinking about values and respect. We are focused on developing skills, tools and goals for the future such as health and wellbeing and mindfulness.
We always start and finish with a check out to see if everyone is ok. We encourage participants to share their feelings as the sessions can bring up a lot of emotions. Are people leaving on a positive note or are they feeling a bit rubbish? If people need to, they can stay behind afterwards and have a chat.
What feedback have you received?
Feedback from the participants shows that they have really benefited from the sessions. They learn tools and techniques to help deal with conflicts and their emotions. It gives them food for thought and the chance to discover things they might not have thought before. It encourages them to gain an understanding of someone else’s perspective - which generally, they haven’t ever done in the past.
Find out more about the service here.