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Mental Health Report 2024 – A note on publishing from Antonia, Head of Influencing

By March 19, 2024March 20th, 2024No Comments

When I first joined Switchback I steadied myself to be met with the same hurdles to influencing momentum as voluntary sector jobs past; lots of well earned opinions and valued assumptions – but a dearth of recorded data or catalogued evidence to present as outward facing statements, to a wider audience, with conviction or rigour.

This was quickly proven to not be the case. With credit to my predecessors and team I was swiftly introduced to a mountain of records, quotes, galleries of personal narrative, case studies, first-person experiences, diarised emotion and evidence-led impact data, a lot of it.

The only problem being that this was kept quite internally facing, well-acknowledged by staff and utilised to develop our service offering and effectively used for inner-track influencing, confidently making its way in front of the right people enabling meaningful action. Good work, but how many people knew that I wondered. What about the people reading this… out there, our partners, supporters, Trainees, the voluntary sector.

Being gifted with a communications holy grail, a lot of quality to communicate, brings its own questions. I landed on the most pertinent being:

  • As an active part of an impressive sector, what does Switchback’s voice sound like?
  • How do we, as Switchback, want to use the evidence we have collated to meaningfully contribute to this space?
  • How do Switchback collaborate?

Whilst not being meritless, the first two questions were a red herring. Switchback’s strategy provides a clear answer:

“We will provide a platform for changing the system. We’ll do this by supporting more Trainees to take an ever-greater role in championing change across the justice system and tackling social and racial injustice – foregrounding their experience, and shifting perceptions by amplifying Trainee voice and influence at every opportunity.”

As opposed to discerning the voice of our organisation as the figurehead for championing change, our team have instead focussed on holding a megaphone up to the voices of our Experts by Experience. Moving beyond providing just a platform for change, we want to acknowledge where our Experts already firmly stand, building confidence and providing consistent opportunities for every member to proudly take the megaphone from our hands and amplifying their experiences, in their own words, with their own ideas. So Switchback’s voice is theirs.

Secondly we will meaningfully contribute to our sector by amplifying Trainee voice and influence at every opportunity. Mental health was a topic decided on by the men and publishing this report externally was at their behest, so of course we used our resources to support this.

So how do we collaborate? The past eight months I have been at Switchback have in part been anchored by growing the confidence of our small, but mighty organisation and influencing team to produce more outward facing communications. We want to continue amplifying the voices of the men we work with by publishing the voices of our Experts by Experience more consistently, with committed resources and infrastructure to support this. This report is the first step in that direction, with this publication being the start in a series of reports released based around the themes addressed by our Reshape Release work and in our National Resettlement Proposal, which we remain committed to advocating for.

We have a lot to learn and we are reconciling what it means to say we are led by those with lived experience, looking introspectively for development opportunities and seeking a diverse range of external guidance so we are held to ever greater standards. Vitally, we have taken lots of steps to move our EBE board from being a consultative function, to one that drives our output. It’s been really exciting to witness and a privilege to be a part of this journey. Working alongside Switchback Trainees is my favourite thing about my job, and such a blessing.

Read Switchback’s Mental Health and Prison Release Report in partnership with our Experts by Experience here.

I want to thank the Barrow Cadbury Foundation, The Esmee Fairbain Foundation, The Considered Ask and Clinks for supporting this work and the Experts by Experience board. And importantly thank you to my team who lead on this work, every step of the way you can be sure to hear one of them say ‘how are EBE involved, when should we update EBE’. With respect to our talented board and forward thinking funders, our current and former Trainees are our primary stakeholders and we look forward to working in partnership with them this election year to help more prison-leavers thrive.

If you would like to hear more about our Experts by Experience board, or if you would like to collaborate with us on our influencing priorities this year – please email us:

Antonia May

Head of Influencing

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