User Voice - Only Offenders Can Stop Re-Offending

London Probation Trust Open Space

On the 7th of October 2013 User Voice hosted a Co-production Event. The event allowed Service Users and Probation Staff to work collaboratively, co-producing a set of recommendations that service providers can implement to improve their current policies and procedures. 

The recommendations are

City & Hackney- Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea

  1. Leaflet or pamphlet of services and charities to apply for support before release
  2. More appropriate info in waiting areas

Barking, Dagenham & Havering
  1. Action Cards
  2. Communication/ technology (service user mailbox)

  1. Probation Officers to give out personal dial number
  2. Greater signposting to be part of the induction

Merton & Sutton
  1. Management oversight for in house services (e.g. education/training/employment and housing)
  2. Offender managers to be monitored for a period to see why service users are having to wait 

Brent & Hillingdon
  1. More financial support for service users being released from prison whilst they are waiting for befits
  2. Information pack on local services and available grants to be produced by service users and probation officers and made available to their local borough

The flexible model allowed participants to address complex issues where there are divergent viewpoints.

The enthusiasm shown by both service users and service providers was extremely encouraging; as a result a set of solution based recommendations were produced. 

These recommendations represent the most important issues identified by the group and will be addressed at the council meetings to follow.  

Knife Crime Event (Southwark)

On the 22nd of October User Voice hosted a World Café Event – ‘Preventing the Harm’. The event was led by the Southwark Youth Council and provided an opportunity for User Voice staff, Volunteers and delegates to discuss the following areas:
  • Why do so many young people in Southwark carry a knife?
  • Who should be involved in preventing knife crime in Southwark?
  • What action can be taken to prevent knife crime?

Guests included policy executives, representatives from local charities and social enterprises, police from Southwark and those from the Youth Offending sector. The passion shown by all volunteers and delegates was extremely encouraging and the feedback received highlights the importance of service user engagement:

“What I’ll take away is a further knowledge of how my part within this community can help the young people in the prevention of knife crime, as well as thinking of suitable solutions to resolve the ever concerning problem” 

Leeds Pathfinder Event

On the 17th of October User Voice staff, volunteers and young people attended the Leeds Pathfinder event. The event aimed to share the progress made on reducing the use of custody in West Yorkshire.

Young people presented to senior policy makers and local management from Bradford, Wakefield, Leeds, Kirklees and Calderdale YOTs as well as the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, the Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board, staff from Sheffield Hallam University and representative from West Yorkshire Police. Altogether the event was a fantastic opportunity for young people to discuss the following areas with the people making decisions about them:
  1. Young people’s experience of custody      
  2. If community sentences are used instead of custody, what things need to be in place to help young people to complete orders successfully, attend well and not breach?
It was extremely encouraging to see such enthusiasm and passion for service user engagement and the feedback was very positive
“I commend the work that [User Voice] delivers. The young people were confident and passionate and I felt honoured to be a part of it. It is through your work that educational and vocational opportunities that are real, can be provided” 

User Voice featured in Prison Service Journal

An article about User Voice's prison council model, written by Cambridge University PhD student Bethany Schmidt, has been featured in September's Prison Service Journal.

To read "User Voice and the Prison Council Model: A Summary of Key Findings from an Ethnographic Exploration of Participatory Governance in Three English Prisons" please click here.

User Voice at the YJC 2013

"Don’t forget that us young people were just like you when you was younger but we’ve gone down a different path. We’re all the same really aren’t we?"

At this year’s Youth Justice Convention, young people from User Voice projects across the country led a question and answer session with youth justice practitioners.

The session, which was highly praised by staff attending, addressed many issues faced by young people entering the criminal justice system. It gave young people a chance for their voices to be heard and offer suggestions on how the system could be improved for other young people like themselves.

Staff who attended the event gave very positive feedback highlighting how impressed they were by our articulate and insightful young peopleThat many practitioners left suggesting they'd promote youth involvement in future events showed how constructive service user involvement can be. 

Southwark young people make film 'The Line Up'


Young people from the User Voice Youth Council in Southwark have made a film that aims to change perceptions of ex-offenders. 

Teaming up with Fixers, an innovative charity which makes high-quality multi-mdeia resources about issues that are important to young people, based on their real life experiences, the project involved the making of a short video called 'The Line Up' aimed at challenging stereotypes.

The final-cut of the film was screened on 27th November at an event at the South London Gallery to an audience that included staff from Southwark Council, London Probation Trust and User Voice. Nigel Hosking, from the London Probation Trust, was impressed with the film'it stops people in their tracks and makes them question their own beliefs and attitudes...the film is excellent for all those reasons and should go down well in schools, youth clubs'

Shauna, a User Voice associate youth engagement coordinator, led the project. Talking about the motivations of the young people people behind it she said: 
We want people to get the picture that young offenders are not monsters. They’re people who have made a mistake and should be treated normally. We're hoping to achieve greater understanding among members of the public of what the concept of being a young offender is. We want to get this resource out nationally. I am a young person and I understand the issues young people face. If I can raise them properly, then it’s a job well done.