Here at Urban Partners, we’re committed to making our neighbourhood a better place to live, work and do business.
We are in regular contact with a range of charities from the local area so we can better understand how our local businesses and employees can help them achieve their objectives.
Each month, we also spotlight a specific charity, in order to better educate local employees about the work they do.
This month we visited the team at Only Connect. Talking to Rosie Bedford (the Corporate Partnerships and Progressions Manager) we heard first-hand about the creative criminal justice charity working to keep young people out of prisons by engaging them in creative community projects.
As Rosie explains “We operate across four London prisons and one other community-based Member centre in Shepherd’s Bush but our main member centre is in King’s Cross. Only Connect allows people aged 16 and over who are exiting the criminal justice system to access projects and support services that enable them to stabilise post-release and move into education, training or employment.”
Name of Charity: Only Connect
Address: OC Central, 32 Cubitt Street, London, WC1X 0LR
“Only Connect is London’s creative criminal justice charity. Our vision is a more connected society where we all choose a crime free life”.
In 2014 England and Wales had a prison population of 84,305, the highest prison population in Europe and over twice the size of our prison population in 1993. 59% of prisons are overcrowded, greatly reducing the opportunity for education and support. This is a huge contributing factor in the criminal justice system failing to prevent reoffending. In fact, 45% of all imprisoned adults are reconvicted within a year of leaving prison. Reoffending costs the UK between 9.5 and 13 billion pounds a year Only Connect prevents the high-rate of reoffending and the damage it causes by harnessing people’s desire to change post sentence. They achieve impact by providing male and female ex-offenders, aged 16+, with Membership of one of their unique centres in central and west London. Members undertake a three-step support journey:
- They engage new Members by working in prisons, with the Probation Service and Youth Offending Teams (YOTs).
- They work with Members in their centres, through creative projects, mentoring and employability training. They equip Members with skills, attributes and networks to progress away from the criminal justice system.
- They provide ongoing community support to Members, enabling them to sustain their progression into education, training and employment.
Underpinning all these steps is their commitment to using creative approaches to engage their Members in a community-focused environment.
“I heard about Only Connect after serving a 12-week sentence for assault. At the time, I was 20 years old and had been in contact with the police and criminal justice system for most of my life. I didn’t have any support on release so I fell back in with the same crowd, repeating the type of behaviour that led me to committing crime. Shortly before I joined Only Connect, I became pregnant. So, I made the decision to become sober and drug free and Only Connect provided all the support that enabled me to make some fundamental changes in my life. I started taking part in some of the creative training courses and I got on really well with the Support Manager who helped me with my housing and at social services meetings. I now try and help others by volunteering at OC West.
I first heard about Only Connect when I was in prison. I was only really interested in using the music studios and not that interested in meeting new people or progressing to employment. I used the studio once a week to start off with, but this soon became three days a week as I got to know people better. I then started to be involved in a creative arts programme called The Playhouse. I realised that this community I was part of was giving me a foundation and was encouraging me to believe even more in my music and myself. Eventually, I realised that I was passionate about youth work and getting people on the same journey that I’d been on. I even worked at Only Connect as an Engagement Coordinator, working with new Members and supporting the OC Music programme. Then, I moved on into another youth work role outside of London. This is something I never imagined doing at the start of my time at Only Connect.
Only Connect are always looking for partners; individuals and organisations that can help with resources, people and networks to enable them to realise their mission. We want to build deeper, long-term relationships that will bring not only sustainable funds but also pathways to solving these challenges in effective and lasting ways. In terms of King’s Cross volunteering opportunities, they are specifically looking for people to join their Entourage group mentoring scheme. They are also seeking long term volunteers to help with our frontline delivery work, especially their Music Tech programme.
For more information on current roles available, see http://www.onlyconnect.london/get-involved/volunteer/
Last year, Only Connect supported over 200 adults and 11,000 young people in London to build an alternative and positive future. By investing in their work in prisons, schools, their centres and the community you are making a pledge to reduce crime and improve the future of London.
Your donation matters: 87% of their funding comes from private donations and every penny invested helps to build communities and change lives. To make a donation, please visit; http://www.onlyconnect.london/get-involved/donate/