Referrals are coming thick & fast into INCAS. It was obvious INCAS would have more referrals than SHE as there are more men in prison than there are women.
INCAS offers stable, abstinence-based housing for a period of six months for men. Running alongside the housing, INCAS offers the same support SHE does. In order to prepare for “normal’ living and standing on one’s own two feet, INCAS offers support to sustain future tenancies. Paying bills, mananging budgets, lessening dependency on the welfare state, where it is safe & practical to do so. As with SHE, INCAS looks at a person’s needs at intial assessment and addresses risk, potential needs and a support plan is put in place, chosen by the member. Working with other agencies, INCAS helps with maintaining and stabilising housing and works with each member to engineer their way through life in the community.
As in my own experiences after sentencing, a home was the biggest barrier I faced. As a single person, due to being in the CJS, I had made myself homeless. The local authority duty to offer me housing was minimal. SHE & INCAS offer this missing link and we are proud of what we have achieved so far.
Working alongside great people to offer support is an area we have found helpful. East Lancashire provides fantastic support from organisations such as Gateways, Red Rose Recovery & Inspire. Community Solutions North West offer great services such as Street Soccer for men to use not just for physical exercise, but to help with team-building skills, meeting new people and working towards coaching certificates. Okay, it might not be a route into employment, but spending time with inspiring individuals is worthwhile for any person.
There are times when a man released from prison is simply not ready for work. Preparing for work is a full-time job. It is not so easy when faced with a raft of appointments, GP, probation reporting requirements, dealing with substance misuse issues. We have found that settling down and being able to make choices takes time and as one member said, “It feels odd”
But what when there is still the missing link? Men are at more risk of isolation as a gender, and none other than a man who has spent a large part of his adult life in prison and being in a regime that at best, is chaotic. Risk is not managed in prison, risk is obliterated. It is why heavy doors are used with big locks. If a male kicks off, isolation can be used to calm down an angry male. Speaking to him and feeding him through a letterbox does not help an angry man, nor does it prepare him for life in the community.
Men with acute mental health diagnoses are in danger of isolating themselves in the community. With all the support available, if clinical input into an acute condition is not addressed, the community can be a dangerous place for a man who is secretly suffering. Living in shared accommodation can become risky and the situation becomes untenable. It is setting up a new set of problems and the casualty of this is the individual himself. What was initially a housing need, becomes a very different situation for an untreated male in a community.
What has been highlighted for us this week, is that what commences on release, is so very important to each individual and the reason why we, as a provider of accommodation, ask after name, address and date of birth before we even touch on offending history, is if a person has a registered GP. If a condition is being treated in prison, usually, on release, a seven-day supply of medication is issued. We ask for that paperwork & copy this to present when a new resident perhaps needs to a register with a GP.
The above process works. Until it comes to community support of a person who has an acute condition. If the pathways are not open and the correct clinical support is not in place, what was initially a basic need, stable accommodation, presents as a very different set of needs. It can also have a detrimental effect on others in shared accommodation.
With the best will in the world, we cannot force someone who is seriously ill, mentally, left untreated into community living if all areas are not covered. If we are not provided with the correct information, we could end up placing people in danger. Trying to mask the missing link is dangerous and poor practices when we are dealing with people’s lives.
The missing link is not a CJS issue, it is a clear cut case of the growing problem of the lack of mental health input in communities.