What’s the problem?
Imagine you are standing looking through 10 feet high iron gates into a courtyard watching a party in full swing. People milling around, talking, making colourful craft, laughing, connecting over a shared joke, experience or a problem. In the background, from inside a shed, you can hear the whirr and whine of metal against wood as someone shapes the arm of chair ready for fitting.
You are outside and have no credentials to get you through the gate, no education, no job experience, no relationships. In fact you have less than that; you have a criminal record, a violent past and a rocky history of substance misuse to boot.
As an offender with a criminal record it can feel like you are excluded from, don’t have access to, what many of us take for granted – a life of work, learning, healthy living, friendship and giving who you are and what you are good at to build community.
At Ail Gyfle-Second Chance we believe in giving people a second chance and have opened the gates, supporting offenders on journey to realise their potential and make a contribution where they live.
What’s the answer?
We provide a safe context for offenders who need to –
One of the biggest challenges offenders face is and absence of stable relationships. People who will be there for you come what may, be honest and real and ‘tell it like it is.’ We have a real family environment, which is mutually supportive. We are friends as well as work colleagues, learning teamwork, how to communicate appropriately and to be mutually supportive.
When you have lived in a home where no one has worked for the last 3 generations you have no role models. Learning to turn up, be punctual, behave appropriately and the value of work are key life skills. In the context of a social enterprise we produce home and garden furniture and craft from recycled pallets and other discarded items.
Many offenders haven’t done well at school, if they attended at all! We provide on the job training in all aspects of running a social enterprise and with the support of Adult Learning Wales we provide Open College Network courses including carpentry, hand tools, Health & Safety, recycling etc.
Adrian: We began work with Adrian (not his real name) as part of his Unpaid Work Order as a single placement, referred him for counselling, addressed his cannabis dependence and at the end of his Unpaid Work he continued as a volunteer. The workplace experience gave him the confidence to attend a job interview and he is now working. He felt so positive about Ail Gyfle and the impact it had made, that he referred the project for a Butler Trust Award.
Sally: Sally (not her real name) began as a volunteer with Ail Gyfle, having completed their Probation Order. Over the last 2 years she has completed NVQ Level 3 Advice and Guidance, Community Development Course, Business Administration Course. In April 2017 she received the Adult Learning Wales’ Award for Learner of the Year. She was successful in her interview for a part-time assistant role within Ail Gyfle.
Mike: Mike (not his real name) has an entrenched history of violence over 20 years and was a known prolific offender. He volunteers with Ail Gyfle and has not re-offended since being with us. He sees his voluntary work as a coping mechanism and will come and talk to staff when he feels the need to lash out.
What people have said:
- Gets you thinking and doing things
- Learning new skills for future employment, and keeping myself busy
- Cutting wood, learning new skills
- Meet new people, feel a sense of achievement and feel good about helping. Different.
- Painting the furniture, learn woodwork, using power tools
- I have made some good friends that support me
- Team work
- Interacting with people with same issues as me
Ail Gyfle developed out of a partnership between a local church (Antioch Centre), Probation and Adult Learning Wales. We wanted to help those on the margins in Llanelli find a way to become more connected and part of the fabric of community life, finding dignity and value in what they do. In the process realising their potential and live fulfilled lives.
We have a mix of people with over 20 years experience of working in the community, probation services, education and are themselves ex-offenders. We are fortunate to have people from ‘both sides of the fence’ a this provides a range of experience and expertise that keeps us grounded. Our goal is to develop a service-user led management team to shape and lead the enterprise forward.
We started in 2014 with groups on Community Service in an empty business unit and this year expanded into a second workshop premises in Llanelli town centre. In the year to October 2016 we engaged 161 Offenders, delivered 263 Open College Network Courses, provided 559 work days in a social enterprise. From lessons learned over the last 3 years we now have group work at the business unit and single placements at our carpentry workshops where we deliver a programme craft, recycling, workshop production and accredited courses. In the current year the changes we have made reflect in the numbers of people we connect with but an increase in the impact we have. We have worked with 60 people of which 10 have stayed involved through volunteering with us, we have helped 4 people get jobs and in addition at least 9 people that we know of have not re-offended.
We employ 5 part-time staff and have a small group of volunteers including our CEO Sian Waters. Sian has recently retired and has extensive experience in Probation Services having received the Butler Trust Award for innovative work with offenders earlier this year.
Why are we Crowdfunding?
We have been developing and fine tuning the enterprise since 2014, having received start up funding from Carmarthenshire C C, Morrisons Foundation and Antioch Centre. We are now in the phase where we need support to fully establish and secure sources of income to become sustainable.
We don’t have large contracts but are looking to build production capacity to sell more items, rent out rooms on the days the offender programme is not running, and establish some agreements with local agencies to deliver our programme to other groups of people.
We need to raise £20,000 to fund the offender programme salaries for the year and to install a disabled toilet at the workshops. Our stretch target would enable us to install a kitchen/rest room at the workshop, which will open up more life skills (healthy eating, budgeting) training opportunities.
We can’t do this without your support. Please pledge and leave a comment (click the ‘comment’ tab when you are pledging) to help us help offenders find their way back to the ‘party.’