The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns meant that , like many organisations , Forward was severely restricted in what we were able to deliver during 2020-21 . The vast majority of our clients , both in prison and the community , were not able to access in-person , one-to-one support from our staff , nor our intensive programmes that help people to achieve transformational change .
This lack of access has been acutely felt in particular by people who are in recovery from drug , alcohol or gambling addiction – approximately 90 per cent of our service users . However , these challenges have also resulted in innovation and new ways of working , teaching lessons that we will apply in the post-pandemic world .
The Forward Trust is helping people to make a new life for themselves in challenging times , says Carwyn Gravell
Lockdowns presented our resettlement housing team and the people we support with significant risks and challenges . For example , with an increased risk of street homelessness – in particular for prison leavers – people were no longer able to ‘ sofa surf ’ with friends .
We continued to deliver our innovative housing models to support clients on our recovery pathways as well as vulnerable clients referred to us by local authorities and partner charities . Support offered by Forward comprises two strands of work :
• Recovery Housing – shared houses where groups of four to five people in recovery live together providing mutual support .
• Vision Housing – access to private rented accommodation , with mentoring support to sustain tenancies .
SUSTAINED TENANCIES For our Vision Housing team – who are based in London and source private rented sector accommodation for clients as well as providing a tenancy sustainment service – one of the greatest challenges in responding to this demand was not being able to view potential properties in person as a result of social distancing rules . We quickly adapted our assessment and viewing processes , organising online viewings with landlords and providing pictures and videos for clients .
Once in their tenancy we maintained remote support for clients every day of the week , including weekends , through telephone and video contact . This included providing smartphones and ‘ move-in ’ packs for those who needed them , with our efforts supported by volunteers . We ’ re proud to report that , despite the challenges of the pandemic , 98 per cent of clients sustained their tenancy for at least 12 months . Between 2020 and 2021 , our housing and resettlement team achieved some impressive outcomes :
• 238 clients referred for housing support
• 79 clients placed in a Vision Housing tenancy , as well as nine people in one of our Recovery Houses ( including our new Women ’ s Recovery House in Ashford )
• Our network of private landlords in 16 local authority areas now offers access to more than 500 clean and safe properties
ENTERPRISE STRATEGY Enterprise and self-employment are a powerful means of giving people in recovery and ex-offenders the chance to unleash their talents and shape their own futures . That ’ s why Forward launched our first enterprise strategy in 2018 . Part of our wider work to support people from disadvantaged backgrounds into meaningful and rewarding employment , the strategy focused on providing intensive enterprise coaching for clients who wanted to become self-employed or set up their own businesses .
Until March 2021 the strategy was supported by the Forward Enterprise Fund , which , in partnership with Social Investment Business , invested £ 400,000 into
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