Despite everything going on, March was a busy month for us at Working Chance and our hard work behind the scenes adapting our model of support is really starting to make a difference.
Over the course of the month, our engagement and support officers met with 17 new women to register them, assess their needs and see how we can best support them.
Once a week, women now come into our office and join us for lunch before attending one of our workshops. In March, these focused on how to disclose your conviction and confidence building. We've received some great feedback on this new model, both from staff who love getting to know all the women, and our candidates themselves. One woman said that she found disclosure advice both 'helpful and empowering.' This is a common response, as taking ownership of what has happened is essential in being able to move forward with your life.
Our engagement team also delivered a three-day employability programme in HMP Peterborough, where they covered everything the women might need to know when trying to re-enter the job market after a long time away. On the third day, we brought in some volunteers to give the women a feel for what a real interview might look like! At the beginning, many of the women were shy and closed off. By the end, the room was alive with energy, confidence and hope for the future. As one woman put it: “My future looks so different to before, thanks to Working Chance. I now see a positive future and will get a job!”
Two of the women who attended have now been released and we are continuing to support them on their journey into employment.
In the third week of March, we made the difficult decision to close our office and put all our workshops in the community and prisons on hold in line with government advice. However, our support to women with convictions and young women care leavers hasn't stopped and we're continuing to work with them via phone and video conferencing.
The women we work with are particularly vulnerable during this difficult time and so we're making sure that we're here to help them navigate the challenges lockdown poses. We're checking in with all our candidates regularly, holding weekly drop-in session around wellbeing and staying motivated, offering therapy for those who would benefit from it and placing women into jobs where appropriate.
We know that the following months will be challenging but we're staying positive and looking for new, creative ways to continue to provide our crucial services.