The Diocese of Lichfield was instrumental in the creation of the North Staffs Community Chaplaincy Project before entrusting it to Saltbox in 2007. Since then the project has gone from strength to strength and has become one of the largest providers of support, housing, mentoring and training for offenders leaving prison.
In 2012, the 12-strong RESTART team provided assistance to over 250 men and women. It is one of the few services that provide support to those ex-offenders designated as Prolific and Persistent. While the national prolific re-conviction rate for the UK is over 75%, less than 30% of Restarts clients have been re-convicted. The vast majority of RESTART clients have multiple and complex needs including significant drug and alcohol usage.
During a visit to RESTART's premises last year Bishop Jonathan met Saltbox CEO Lloyd Cooke, RESTART manager Andy Boyle and other staff and heard about the work and success of the project.
I am extremely impressed said Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill, Bishop of Lichfield by the dedication of the staff and the results they are achieving. Their firm-but-fair approach to dealing with ex-offenders is a wonderful example of offering dignity and opportunity and expecting respect in return. Many of the offenders they are working with have never had the opportunity or developed the skills necessary to settle in society."
"It is a marvellous outworking of the Christian belief that all people, no matter what they have done nor how they feel about themselves, have worth in the sight of God. We often talk about sharing the love of God but we could equally talk of investing in people' the two can be the same as we see at RESTART.
The secret is time said CEO Lloyd Cooke when they met. We take a lot of time with the guys. We collect them from the prison gates and they sign a licence agreement with us. We put them into what is probably the best house theyve ever lived in, even though it is basic by most peoples standards. Each client is expected to volunteer at least two days per week with the project. Tasks involve house maintenance, gardening, painting & decorating, furniture restoration. We dont want free labour, we want to build a relationship. We provide the bus fare and lunch. Conversation is steered away from drugs and drink and focussed towards positive outcomes such as family life.
After the meeting, Bishop Jonathan said It is evident that helping each ex-offender build a new life is a time-consuming and costly process for a charity, especially one that is relatively small like RESTART. But now the government is talking about ways in which projects like this can be funded by their payment by results scheme. Im glad that, finally, government is taking notice of what this small but very effective charity is doing as the success of the RESTART programme far outstrips many larger and costlier schemes.
Stoke North Labour MP Joan Walley formally opened the new RESTART offices in Podmore Street, Burslem today in front of representatives from Staffs Police, Staffs Probation and Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
Only this week, the Government identified that reducing offending requires new partnership working with voluntary sector."We believe that RESTART is exactly the sort of voluntary sector organisation to do this said Cooke.
The Saltbox provides support for churches and other faith groups and also delivers a number of services for vulnerable groups including older people (CareLink), those in debt (Money Matters) and ex-offenders (RESTART).