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Duncan Shrubsole, our new Chair, on Switchback’s Bright Future

By June 21, 2019 November 11th, 2019 No Comments

We are delighted that Duncan Shrubsole will become Switchback’s new Chair of Trustees from September 2019.

Duncan has been a friend of Switchback since our early days and a Trustee since 2017. He brings his extensive experience from the civil service, from nine years leading campaigning, policy and communications at Crisis, and most recently at the Lloyds Bank Foundation where he is Director of Policy, Communications and Research. Here Duncan writes about what Switchback means to him, and what excites him about the future.


I am delighted to have been asked to become the new Chair of Switchback. I’ve been a Trustee for a couple of years but I’ve known and admired Switchback since its early days when I was working at Crisis and Alice and co-founder Slaney first pitched up with their idea of doing things differently. I watched with interest as they set out on the journey of establishing Switchback and from the side of a shared desk recruited the first Switchback Trainees, supporting them to start training in the Café From Crisis.

From those first beginnings, it’s amazing to see how Switchback has grown and developed and now in our second decade, having already helped over 280 people to live a life differently and committed to helping many more. Anyone who has ever met a Switchback Trainee can see the life changing and life affirming impact that can be had.

Having marked the achievements of the first decade of Switchback, all of us involved – Trustees, staff, supporters, partners and Trainees themselves – are determined to deepen the impact we can have in the lives of individual Trainees and in changing the wider prison and criminal justice system.  So our new three-year strategic plan commits us to help more Trainees change their lives and to move into and sustain employment, with an ambition that all young men leaving prison and returning to London are offered the chance of engaging with Switchback. As important is our new objective to  influence policy and practice, both in the corridors of Whitehall or Westminster and on the landings of HMP Isis or HMP Pentonville. Through sharing our learning, insights, evidence and the perspectives of our Trainees we will seek to change the systems and behaviours driving our prisons and remove the barriers holding Trainees back, so that, as we set out in our policy document last year, it is “more human and more effective.”

For people who have been too often failed by too many, at Switchback it’s vital that we mean what we say and do what we say. Being a Trainee or a Switchback Mentor is tough. It involves a lot of personal commitment. It’s vital that they know that the organisation will be there for them tomorrow. So our third strategic objective is to ensure the organisation is well run and well resourced through ensuring a strong and secure financial and organisational position.

But we know we cannot do any of this on our own. Switchback is very much a joint-enterprise: of funders, donors and supporters; partners who offer Trainees opportunities, work placements and support; staff, volunteers, Trustees and of course Trainees themselves – particularly through the Experts by Experience Board sharing their views, perspectives, feedback and of course challenges. New and old friends alike are all vital and indeed it is that combination which is key to our success and makes us greater than the sum of our parts.

As Trustees while we must always keep a close eye on funding pipelines, statistics of progress, policies and procedures, at the heart of Switchback there remains a very simple idea – that everyone no matter what they have done or has been done to them deserves a second chance. Switchback’s unwavering commitment to its Trainees will always be at the core of all that we do. We set very high expectations of what Trainees can and will achieve, but recognise there are no short cuts to living life differently and they need support through the twists and turns.

Thank you for all your interest in and involvement with Switchback to date and we look forward to working with you to achieve so much more in the months and years to come.

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