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A Day in the Life of an About Face Case Worker

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Outside West Yorkshire is at its best with blue skies, green grass and grazing sheep, but the room where we meet Sophie is very different. In the New Hall Prison visiting room we’re cold, the only pretence at comfort comes from the foam padding on the seats.

Sophie is my first client today. We met seven months ago when she was referred to the About Face programme with a history of substance misuse from an early age, which led to a burglary conviction and time in a Young Offenders prison. We’d met with her and her alcohol worker, and had helped her join a volunteering organisation in order to fight one of the main barriers to her recovery: boredom.

Though all our clients volunteer for our services because they want to change, only four weeks in Sophie was recalled to prison after being found working the streets trying to earn money for drugs and alcohol. It’s rarely an easy road.

Today she looked tired and defeated. We are one of few visitors she gets. We talk about what education programmes she’s enrolled in and what her plans are for the next few months and by the time we say goodbye, she’s perked up and looking forward to the afternoon and getting outside for a few hours.

On our way to a home visit I get a call from South Yorkshire Police about Trevor. Trevor is one of our clients who has been doing really well, but now he’s broken his licensing conditions and is being recalled to prison. It’s a blow – Trevor had strong motivation to rebuild his life and most importantly to regain contact with his children. But he’s living in the community surrounded by the things he is trying to move on from, so it’s difficult.

There will always be bumps in the path from criminality to desistance that individuals like Trevor will need to navigate with our support. If Trevor is open to our visiting him in prison while he serves the remainder of his sentence we will. When he’s released we will do everything we can to support him as he integrates into a new community, and rebuilds his relationship with his kids.

My final meeting for the day is a good one. I go to see Brian at his home. He has a cup of tea and a huge smile waiting for me as he tells me he’s got a job. Three months ago we connected him with at a local community centre where he completed an employability skills training course, his local Job Centre arranged an interview for him, and a fantastic charity fitted him out with his very own brand new suit. For the first time in years, Brian feels motivated towards something positive and can see himself in a stable job. It’s a big win.

Each day as an About Face key worker brings new challenges for me and for the clients I work with. It’s never straightforward, and sometimes the setbacks can seem discouraging. But we don’t ever give up on a client, and we continue to work with someone for as long as they want our support. We’re working with a lot of people from very troubled backgrounds, but there are still so many positives, and no matter how small a victory is, we celebrate, as they represent a step in the direction of desistance from crime and into building a brand new life.

About Face supports men and women who have a history within the Criminal Justice System and are vulnerable to re-offending behaviour. Through a designated mentor, we prepare individuals for the transition from incarceration to integration into the community, helping them live positive and fully restored lives.
This service forms part of our commitment to starting at the source, supporting not just survivors but also perpetrators, to create a better society.

City Hearts Launches in Aberdeen

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This month sees the launch of Modern Slavery Charity City Hearts in Aberdeen. Caring for some of the most vulnerable and exploited men, women and children in the country, City Hearts Aberdeen will begin their work by providing care for women with life controlling issues, with future plans to become part of the support network for the care of survivors of Modern Slavery in Scotland.

Scotland has been identified as the largest pathway of child trafficking in the United Kingdom, and the Scottish government are working hard to put into place policy and legislation that identifies and supports victims, and prosecute those found guilty of trafficking.

As part of the UK Government’s response to Modern Slavery, City Heart (UK) opened their doors in 2005 and have since cared for over 4000 victims of Modern Slavery. Their mission is to pursue the freedom and restore the lives of some of the most vulnerable and exploited people in society. They do this through services such as Safe Houses, Outreach Support, Counselling and Integration Programmes which promote independence, full integration into society and building trust in humanity once again.

In partnership with the Co-operative Group, City Hearts also hopes to develop the Bright Futures Programme in Scotland. In addition to providing training and work placements, the Bright Future Programme aims to employ 300 people who have been rescued from enslavement by 2020.

“We are really excited to be launching our charity in the North East of Scotland.  We hope to grow and establish the charity and link with agencies across the area to help survivors of modern slavery and those struggling with life controlling issues.”

– Kirsty Wilson, a City Hearts Regional Manager

City Hearts Statement – March 2018

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On 14th March, Channel 4 raised a number of concerns relating to some of the services provided by City Hearts to which we gave the following response:

“City Hearts is currently helping safeguard over 600 women, men and children – assisting them to recover from the evils of Modern Slavery. We have so far helped around 4,250 people to go on to lead fulfilling independent lives.

We seek to uphold the highest standards of excellence and diversity, and have been very disappointed to hear the allegations you have brought to our attention.

We are of course investigating these matters and in the meantime it would be inappropriate for us to comment publicly, especially in relation to the individuals involved.

We will in any event review our policies and procedures to try to make sure we are as supportive and protective as we can be in supporting people whose lives have been so badly harmed by the evil of Modern Slavery.”

City Hearts – March 2018

City Hearts Stories: Anti-Slavery Day

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It’s stories like this that make today – #antislaveryday – so significant. This is real. This is on our streets. This is something that together, we can end.

These two brothers are currently cared for in a City Hearts safe house. To help support men like these you can donate now.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? – Pathways out of the Post NRM Maze

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We recently undertook a Six Month Review of City Hearts’ Integration Support Programme (ISP)

This nationally recognised programme helps survivors upon leaving Government support (NRM), preventing re-trafficking, suicide and homelessness.

This report of the ISP shows a support model using signposting and specialist case work style interventions to meet survivor needs as they arise, helping maintain stability and connection to vital support through local drop in’s and fortnightly phone calls. The goal is to reduce the number of survivors slipping into the unknown after leaving the NRM and making sure that no survivor is ever involuntarily without support ever again.

At date of publishing this report, the ISP is supporting over 100 survivors in the North West of England. The report demonstrated the models ability to continue supporting those who have moved out of the region and also repatriated. Thus maintaining crucial continuity of support for all survivors in the ISP.

The Programme has partnered with the Co-op to provide fast track to work options through project Bright Futures, offering 4 week paid work placement and guaranteed non-competitive interviews.  In addition the ISP has developed a fast response support mechanism with The British Red Cross; offering one on one crisis interventions with a trained volunteer by the side of a survivor within 4 hours anywhere in the North West.

Alongside key partners the ISP is seeking to expand to new regions of the UK so that as many survivors as possible can be supported.

Download and read the full report here.

City Hearts Africa Update – September 17

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How many?!

We’re excited to announce that thanks to our generous supporters our Child Partnership Programme is growing! This year we’ve increased the number of children we support from 35 to 50. And don’t forget it’s not just the individual life that is being changed – it’s the entire family that is touched and a whole generation whose destiny is changed forever.

City Hearts Africa is continuing to grow and change more lives for the better!

Joining our new International Development Coordinator Karen in Ghana, is newly appointed Child Partnership Programme Coordinator Robyn Tate and volunteer Allison Wheedon who has given up a year to support the programme.

Having just returned back from Ghana, Lydia Beck and shares some of her story…

“During my time in Ghana I saw children graduate and go on to senior high school, more children being supported, lots of staff training, teachers and families connecting with us more and a whole heap of fun! It’s been a true privilege to be a part of the foundational years of such a thriving project.

Our focus was on fostering partnerships with key organisations and schools and strengthening relationships with the children’s families through Family Feast events, home visits, parent meetings and regular phone calls.

Our new mentorship program matches each child to a staff member who they meet with each month allowing them space to talk about their personal highlights or struggles. Through this, we were able to support children through some difficult times and celebrate them when they achieved personal goals. I’m excited for the children as I really believe through the work that we’re doing, many have the capacity to become positive and influential members of their society.”


Child Sexual Exploitation Update

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South Yorkshire has spent the last few years in the spotlight with the revelation of numerous Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) cases in the county.

Over that time, the South Yorkshire Police have been working towards seeing the cases taken to court and for perpetrators to be convicted of the horrific crimes of abuse.

City Hearts alongside other professionals including social workers and mental health teams, were invited to support victims during the difficult and sensitive time as they prepared for trial proceedings.

City Hearts listened without judging and it made me feel safe.

When the Monroe Trial concluded we were there to support the victims and were thrilled with the final verdict.

We have a great relationship with South Yorkshire Police and will be continuing to support future victims of CSE. Due to funding, many of these women are not able to access support after the conclusion of court proceedings. Our aim is to create Drop-in’s that survivors can attend which will offer support unique to their needs through mentoring, workshops and counselling.


“We are touching the tip of the huge iceberg working with survivors of CSE in our pilot project but we believe every life matters, every story should be told, every voice has the right to be heard and we have a duty to restore something that was stolen from them: their innocence, hope and a future. We are excited to be a part of standing in the gap to support these survivors.”

“I also want to take this opportunity to thank the agencies we have worked closely alongside throughout our inquiry, who have played vital roles in supporting our victims and preparing them for this trial. 

“Although this prosecution is a key event in rebuilding lives, it is only the start of the process for many. Many wonderful people in the voluntary sector are committed to helping victims of abuse. Specifically I would like to thank City Hearts, an organisation and charity that helps numerous young women.”

Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Martin Tate


Integration Support Programme – Interim Report

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The Fresh Start Report found that 76% of victims exited the NRM into unknown circumstances. The Integration Support Programme aims to catch people as they fall off the cliff edge of support after the NRM. Since the 9th January 2017, 97% of those asked if they wanted ongoing support after leaving the NRM said yes. The ISP has supported 73 individuals, seeing referrals into our post NRM service rise by 118%.


Read the full Integration Support Programme Interim Report January-March 2017 here:

ISP Interim Report J-M2017