Since 2017 Hampshire Cultural Trust has worked in partnership each year with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company (HIOW CRC) to deliver an arts led intervention to service users on probation.
Creating Change is an interactive arts programme of drama, theatre and writing techniques to help HIOW CRC Service Users (specifically women) to identify, moderate and manage their attitudes, thinking and behaviours in order to make positive changes in their own lives.
Creative, active and participatory, the programmes are designed and delivered by BearFace Theatre CIC who are skilled and experienced in responding to the needs of groups and individuals to build trust, honesty and a sense of fun, so that women feel safe and able to share towards building a sense of hope for change.
“I have gained a lot of confidence and I’ve started to believe in myself. I had no idea what this programme was before I turned up – I was overwhelmed and had no confidence. This is the only thing I come out of my house for. Being an all-woman group helps you feel safe and relate to other women’s lives. Playing can make me feel overwhelmed as I‘m almost 50! It can feel strange to play but it makes things memorable”
In 2019/2020 the Creating Change programme funded by Hampshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner’s Safer Communities Fund and HIOW CRC, increased the delivery of each programme from 6 to 8, two hour sessions, following the positive feedback and advice from CRC staff and participants from previous programmes indicating that longer engagement with such work leads to better outcomes and more sustained personal development and self-transformation.
BearFace Theatre delivered a total of 36 group sessions at 5 HIOW CRC Women’s Centres, working with 45 women in Aldershot, Basingstoke, Cosham, Southampton and on the Isle of Wight.
BearFace Theatre lead the sessions with support workers accompanying key individuals. Separate staff training sessions enable staff to experience for themselves what the participants do. This helps them to understand, support and be advocates for the programme and this continued professional development feeds into the rest of their work and equips them with new skills and ways to engage with women on probation. Previous participants have returned as volunteers to help promote and support the programmes.
The delivery of 3 staff training days with 15 staff members signed up has been postponed until such time as we are able to deliver in response to social distancing and Covid 19 restrictions.
The Ministry of Justice’s (MOJ) Women’s Strategy endorses provision in the community to address offending by women in Women’s Centre. It emphasises the need for women- specific programmes. Although women are a minority in the Criminal Justice system, they are more likely to be victims themselves and have more complex needs. Women are less likely to reoffend than men but more likely to be repeat offenders. Creating Change programmes are bespoke and sensitive to women’s needs and vulnerabilities, and are designed to enable them to feel safe and ultimately to learn to break negative patterns and cycles of criminal behaviour.
The multiple and complex needs of women offenders may include: unstable family relationships, substance misuse, domestic abuse and mental health. Creating Change sessions address topics such as clear communication, healthy relationships, assertive behaviour and impulse control and aim to increase self-belief, confidence and self-esteem. The participating women gain positive life skills which will have an impact on how they behave and interact with their families and communities and may reduce the likelihood of risky or reoffending behaviour.
It is recognised that women are often victims as well as perpetrators of crime and Creating Change addresses the needs and behaviours that will help to prevent the repeat pattern of victimisation. The tone of the course is about creating a safe, honest and trusted space and the awareness of self- respect, assertiveness, emotional intelligence and confidence, equipping women with the ability to ask for help from support networks and to trust the systems that are in place for women.
There is a profound positive impact from being given permission to play, to explore self- expression, to experience critical self- reflection, to be encouraged to feel love and compassion for yourself and others and to experience trust and safety in a learning space/group.
“This group has helped my anger management. I can be a fool without violence. I’ve learned how to negotiate”
“I’ve gone to the police about something, it’s given me the confidence to do that rather than take the matter into my own hands.”
“I’ve not been listening and now I can start listening and behaving. I can be myself, not be judged. I have freedom of speech here.”
“this is contagious practice and a real investment for staff to experience” Staff feedback.
The partnership with HIOW CRC continues to develop and there is strong support, understanding and appreciation of the programmes and CRC staff endorse and promote it to their Service Users.
Hampshire Cultural Trust, HIOW CRC and BearFace Theatre have all listened to, learned from and adapted the programmes following feedback, reflection and advice collated from the evaluation process involving service users and staff. Recommendations are implemented at the planning stages for future programmes and have included:
- extending sessions from 6 to 8 to give service users a more sustained personal development and self-transformation, enabling a more in depth and far reaching experience for participants both individually and allowing time to cohere as a supportive social group,
- improving the environment where sessions take place for service users to participate fully and gain maximum benefit, including bigger space, windows, refreshment making facilities and consideration of all female presence, helps to create an environment of trust and for participants to relax.
For the first time in 2020 a deaf service user participated accompanied by a Sign Language Interpreter. BearFace Theatre successfully adapted their approach to ensure accessibility and inclusivity and are now confident that future programmes could open up to participants who may have additional specific needs with the appropriate support from HIOW CRC.
Covid 19 has interrupted the practical delivery for now but Hampshire Cultural Trust, HIOW CRC and BearFace Theatre remain committed to achieving positive outcomes for women on probation, including reducing reoffending, care for women who are victims and the reintegration of women into their local communities. The probation service is changing but in the interim one women’s group programme is planned and there will also be a pilot programme with men on the Isle of Wight as soon as Covid 19 restrictions are relieved.