We’re delighted to share our 2020 Annual Report. Below, Switchback’s Founder and CEO, Alice Dawnay, and Chair, Duncan Shrubsole, share their reflections on building stability during a year of chaos.
Modelling stability amid the chaos has always been the central purpose of Switchback’s work supporting young men on both sides of the prison gate. The coronavirus pandemic which shook the world in 2020 would test this commitment to the limit. Yet as we look back on a year like no other, we are proud that we not only kept the ship on course through incredible turbulence, we also reached more young men than ever before while greatly expanding our role in shaping wider change across the system.
”Raph was texting me every week, calling me every week to make sure I was doing OK. Raph plays a very positive role in my life, he’s been that step-up to get me where I need to be. I’ve been accepted onto a psychology course at Goldsmith’s University in New Cross and I just got a text to say my housing is properly sorted and from Saturday I’ll have somewhere to stay.Patrick, 21, Switchback Trainee in 2020
Covid-19 affected us all, yet for the 80,000 people in prison in England and Wales the impact was especially stark, as people endured months of 23.5-hour confinement in cramped cells. For young men released from these dire conditions and asked to rejoin society, a very different world awaited. Switchback witnessed record numbers released into the pandemic homeless, with just the £46 discharge grant to survive. Yet while the need for our support soared, the lockdown meant Switchback was shut out of prisons and our real-work training partners had to close their doors. We responded as we always have done: by finding the silver linings from the dark clouds gathering. In rapid response to the pandemic we developed a new post-release programme, Foundation for Stability: six weeks of intensive 1-to-1 support enabling young Londoners to get things sorted and begin building a stable life away from crime. Switchback engaged more Trainees (72) in 2020 than ever before, supporting a total of 225 young men, who showed incredible positivity and determination despite the extremely challenging context.
At the same time, with the system collapsing around us, Switchback grasped the opportunity to push action for prison-leavers up the agenda. In 2020, we helped to secure £20 million for the Ministry of Justice’s new Prison Leavers Project, £13 million for extra temporary accommodation, influenced the new probation model, raised awareness about racial injustice on social media, highlighted rising homelessness on BBC1, and much more. Most importantly, through our thriving Experts by Experience Board which met 12 times in 2020, this activity was driven by the young men – predominantly from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds – most marginalised by the system.
”Switchback has kept me proactive and motivated. Having someone to talk to has stopped me from feeling lonely. I could talk to Cassie about anything and everything. She helped me to reach out positively to my family members, get employment and changed my mindset.Laudjah, 26, Switchback Trainee in 2020
Despite the dire impact on charity fundraising caused by the pandemic, in 2020 we were grateful to many loyal donors who re-pledged support. We also grew our corporate donations, added five new staff and three Trustees, and further enhanced our operational processes and resilience. Spurred on by the groundswell of activism sparked by the killing of George Floyd, we also began substantive action to make our team, and our board, more representative of the communities we serve.
”I’ve only known my Switchback Mentor Maddy for a short time but she’s been there more for me than people I’ve known for my whole life. People like me, when we get support, we’re not used to it. With Switchback, since leaving prison everything’s been amplified. I would never have had all these opportunities without her.Serge, 30, Switchback Trainee in 2020
Switchback’s most important value – to keep Trainees at the heart of everything we do – guided us through the pandemic and will continue to drive us forward into the future. Against a backdrop of continued instability in prisons and beyond, the need for Switchback’s work has rarely been greater. Having not only survived the storm of 2020 but continued to thrive, Switchback is well-placed to provide a model of stability for even more young men in the years to come, while forging change across the system.
Alice Dawnay, Founder
Duncan Shrubsole, Chair of Trustees