Labour MP Lucy Powell visited the unique HOPE project (Hope Outside Prison Environments) in Manchester last week where she was greeted by staff and service users of the Project. The two year funded project gives hope to ex-offenders and enables them to re-build their lives away from crime.
The project which is run by Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMW) caters for people aged 16 and over who are at risk of custody and who have a mental health condition. The HOPE project engages service users to set recovery goals, learn new skills and to raise self-esteem. The project is activity based to develop a sense of wellbeing, explore creativity and increase the likelihood of employment.
Lucy Powell, Labour Member of Parliament for Manchester Central said: “HOPE is a brilliant project and the incredible stories I have heard from service users illustrates the vital service that projects like HOPE provide.
“The strong message that HOPE preach is that offenders, or those at risk of offending, need the right help. While the willpower to change has to come from within, once that is there then the system needs to respond to that.”
Service users can stay within the HOPE project for up to six months and HOPE’s records state that there has only been two cases of service users re-offending after a 17 week period within HOPE. Considering that probation assessments would predicate a medium likelihood of reoffending for most of HOPE service users, then the project is doing its job of keeping people out of the criminal justice system.
The HOPE project has strong links with other organisations across Manchester including Greater Manchester Probation Trust (GMPT) and Greater Manchester Fire Service.
An ex-service user of the HOPE Project said: “HOPE was different to every other service that tried to help me, they had ex-offenders there to assist mentoring with the staff and this helped as I could relate them. They had been down the same path as me and they have changed their lives which made me think I could change too.
“I had lived a life of crime for 27 years but the team at HOPE motivated me to change and taught me about positive thinking. Simple changes such as eating better and exercising has helped me start a fresh.”
“After gaining further education and completing an accounts course I now run my own business in nutrition and fitness. My life has changed for the better and I’m not looking back.”