Spotlight on P3

Sean Wimhurst (pictured above right) is Head of Justice with P3, the charity that delivers services for socially excluded and vulnerable people. P3 is part of Purple Futures, together with 3SC, Shelter and Interserve; Purple Futures runs five Community Rehabilitation Companies. Purple Futures is, says Wimhurst, “work in progress still. It’s been a learning process. I think we are getting there and now pushing towards a more collaborative approach. I think we have recognised that if we are going to influence peoples’ behaviour, the best opportunity to do that is early in the client’s probation journey. When people are leaving prison or getting new community orders, that’s generally when they are most committed to change, when they are thinking ‘I would like things to be different.’ It’s also when they have got the most involvement from their probation officer and input from their through the gates worker in prison. We have been involved in that process in the past but it’s been quite an ad hoc involvement. If we can be more integrated into early interventions with the clients then that’s when it really works well.”

Probation officers coordinate the process of clients leaving prison and also those on community orders. They can be referred to P3’s services by the probation officer; P3 offers, says Wimhurst, a very intensive support programme specifically targeting people who, after assessments, are found to have a 75% chance of re- offending within the next two years. That is P3’s core group, representing the top 10% of offenders. “We would be looking at addressing the things that are very practical,” says Wimhurst. “If people don’t get help with these things they often fall straight back into their previous way of life, mixing with the same peer group, accessing poor housing or no housing, they carry on with substance abuse, and they quickly fall back into a pattern that they feel safe with. Many of our clients are really motivated to change when they leave prison, they want things to be different but they have limited coping strategies. And a lot of the time the system is stacked against them – they are usually serial offenders and when they come out people don’t give them the opportunities that might help. Very often they are excluded from local authority housing and private landlords won’t touch them.” It’s very difficult for people to change their life even if they want to. “What we do,” says Wimhurst, “is to act as an advocate for the client and also provide them with very practical support. We will take them to appointments, we will prompt them that they need to be up at a certain time, we make sure they turn up with the right attitude, we will make sure they have their documents in place. Our offer is very individual because every individual is different – it’s very intensive work compared to what they are used to. Our objective is to make ourselves redundant – by ensuring that our clients are better able to cope.”