Switchback’s ambition is that everyone has the opportunity to live a stable and rewarding life as an active member of society.
”“When I first came into Switchback I’d feel so uncomfortable I could hardly speak. Switchback totally changed how I thought about myself.
I’ve learned that it’s not about taking the fast route, taking the long route is more beneficial in the end. I’ve done so much more than I thought I could.”Elton, Fashion Student and former Switchback Trainee
We build trust, confidence, independence and stability in all areas of a Trainee’s life. In all decisions we use the lens: “does this help us improve the prospects of young prison-leavers?”
We prize integrity and honesty. We don’t sell a dream: we are realistic about what it means to genuinely start over and the huge courage needed to change. We recognise that change is not linear and we provide a space to learn from mistakes.
Our commitment to Trainees is consistent and continuous, lasting for as long as it takes. We reject quick fixes, shortcuts and tick boxes. We do what we say we are going to do and coach our Trainees to do the same.
We assume strengths, resources and abilities in Trainees. We don’t do things for people: we challenge and encourage our Trainees to take control. We are distinctive in our high expectations of Trainees, our own conduct, the quality of our partnerships and the impact of our work.
We challenge Trainees to move outside their comfort zone and we encourage adventure to learn and grow. As a charity we strive to do the same, constantly seeking to reflect and improve. We pioneer an alternative approach and share our evidence with others.
The reoffending rate has barely reduced in decades: 48% of prison-leavers are reconverted with a year and fewer than a fifth move into work.
Young adults and people from ethnic minority backgrounds, who make up the majority of Switchback Trainees, are also significantly over-represented in the prison system.
of prison-leavers reoffend within a year of release
of prison-leavers are not in work a year after release
estimated annual cost of reoffending
annual cost per prison place
Homelessness, mental health problems and low skills are just some of the barriers faced by people leaving prison.
Many have grown up in poverty or in care, have never worked legitimately and have experienced violence and trauma. Among recent Switchback Trainees:
have drug or alcohol issues
leave prison homeless
have never worked before
have no qualifications
These challenges are compounded by a prison and probation system in chaos and the fragmentation of housing, health and welfare support. This means prison-leavers are not getting the consistent, personalised support needed to make a profound change in their lives.
Switchback’s model was established in 2008 on the premise that it is often not the lack of opportunity, but rather a lack of confidence, knowledge and continuity of support that prevents prison-leavers from overcoming challenges and realising their options.
When working with Trainees, Switchback models stability amid the chaos. Through a consistent, long-term relationship and real work training, we enable Switchback Trainees to make a profound change in how they think about and participate in society.
See What We Do to find out more about our model.
”People only do what they know, and that depends where you grow up. To me, I knew how sell drugs. In my community it’s just normal to do crime.
Switchback taught me and pushed me so much. I’ve learned to forget about crime. I’ve been shown a different route."Ahmed, Switchback Trainee
Ben Summerskill was, at 25, Operations Director of a London restaurant business serving 14,000 meals a week. He then enjoyed a Fleet Street career, latterly as Assistant Editor of the Observer. From 2003-2014 he was CEO of Stonewall and from 2015-2018 Director of the Criminal Justice Alliance. He’s also a member of the Board of ACAS and the Honours Committee for the Voluntary Sector.
Burphy has a wealth of experience of working with young men like Switchback’s Trainees. In his role as Research Manager and Director of ClearView Research (CVR), Burphy has worked on projects to include the voices of underrepresented groups in high-level decision-making. Outside of CVR he is part of a project called My Brother’s Keeper which mentors men that are serving long or life sentences to inspire hope and change.
Olivia Gillan-Bower has spent most of her career in strategy consulting, notably at PwC where she was a Partner specialising in the retail/leisure/consumer sectors. She is now focused on the not for profit sector, acting as a Trustee for Little Village and the Mark Anthony Trust as well as volunteering as an Interview Coach at Smart Works. She also serves as a Magistrate in London.
Kalm Paul-Christian is an investment banker at NatWest Markets, advising financial institutions on strategic decisions for sustainability and growth. Kalm started off his career at Rothschild and Co before moving to the Social Investment Consultancy where he supported charities on impact measurement and income diversification. Kalm is also Trustee of national anti-poverty charity Turn2Us.
Duncan Shrubsole observed Switchback emerge and grow while working at Crisis where he led its policy, communications and research for 9 years. He is passionate about the role of charities in changing lives and public policy and is now Director of Policy Communications and Partnerships at the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales. He started his career in local government and the civil service and is a school governor in South East London.
Dawn Reid is Director at award-winning housing provider The Hyde Group, following a successful career in social care. As well as sitting on other boards, Dawn is also an experienced Coach and Mentor. Dawn’s passion for criminal justice started when she was a residential social worker, advocating for young people and acting as an Appropriate Adult.
Simon Eyers has been a long term Switchback supporter. He studied Electrical Engineering at Edinburgh in the 1980s, going on to become a banker, eventually ending up in private equity as a partner at Warburg Pincus where he is now a Senior Advisor. He currently chairs Evrythng, an enterprise software platform.
Eshan is Switchback’s first Board Adviser, a 12-month position bringing first-hand experience of the prison system and what it’s like to be a Switchback Trainee to the work of the Board, while gaining exposure to the work of Trustees. Eshan now works operating a street food market in south-central London. Eshan has been an Expert by Experience member since the birth of the group, feeding into the work of the charity, and has also been working as Switchback’s first Policy Intern.
After graduating with a degree in Food Science, Gillian went on to spend most of her career from 1984 to 2009 in the investment banking industry at JP Morgan and Credit Suisse. She worked in a variety of finance roles, including as a Financial Controller and as a regulatory specialist. Prior to joining the Switchback Trustee board, she spent 10 years as Treasurer of a small, community based charity on the Isle of Dogs. She is also a serving Magistrate in East London.
”I've been so proud to support Switchback since it started. The team is wonderful — energetic, full of integrity and always totally committed. And crucially they always keep Trainees at the heart of everything they do.
”Switchback offers a commitment that really changes lives. This is why they are the River Cottage chosen charity and why I have joined them to celebrate their many successes at each and every one of their annual events.
Switchback’s Experts by Experience (EBE) board is a group of current and former Switchback Trainees who meet regularly to inform and improve Switchback’s work.
Andrew Robinson MBE
Anna Yearley OBE
HH Judge Daniel Worsley (Ret.)
Roma Hooper OBE
From charitable trusts to employers providing work experience for Trainees, we are very grateful to the fantastic partners and supporters who make Switchback’s work possible. See our Get Involved page to find out more about becoming a partner or supporter of Switchback.