Our 2021 Annual Report is here. Below, Switchback’s Founder and CEO, Alice Dawnay, and Chair, Duncan Shrubsole, look back on defying the odds during another turbulent year.
For Switchback, as for charities across the country, 2021 marked a second year of extraordinary turbulence caused by the pandemic. Even as society began to open up, a harsh lockdown remained in most prisons, restricting Switchback’s access to young men who, after months of solitary confinement, needed support more than ever.
Yet, as in 2020, Switchback’s team responded in 2021 with great determination to reach more young men against the odds, while pushing hard for change across the system and further strengthening our foundation for the future. Despite the huge challenges, in 2021 we supported 65 young prison leavers in London to become Switchback Trainees (our second-highest number ever), providing intensive 1-to-1 support alongside access to training, supporting 195 men in total. While pre-release support remained restricted by Covid, our impact remained high (including 78% of Switchback Trainees completing the programme) and met significant need including homelessness and rising mental health, drug and alcohol needs.
”I got a Switchback Mentor, he’s from a similar background. So when he’s speaking to me, he’s telling me I’m not judged. Seeing him here made me feel like, you know what, I can do it, if I carry on down this road with his help. He went above and beyond for me. I wanted a job, Switchback pushed me as hard as I wanted to go to get that job. You get that warmth of: I’m part of something.Malik, 2021 Switchback Trainee
This continued impact against the odds was enabled by the further development of our Foundation for Stability programme, a new post-release support option launched in rapid response to the pandemic. At the end of 2021 we were nonetheless delighted to return to prisons and restart our original and most impactful through-the-gate model. Going forward, we will offer both options (starting in prison or post-release), increasing our flexibility in uncertain times. Meanwhile, Switchback’s efforts to inspire change across the justice system – a new focus for this strategic period – went from strength to strength. Rooted, as ever, in the voice of Switchback Trainees, we launched our first campaign, Reshape Release, helping to secure a landmark advocacy win by raising the prisoner discharge grant for the first time in 25 years (from £46 to £76).
We consistently shifted perceptions of prison leavers in media and policymaking, increasing Trainees’ representation at every opportunity. This progress inspired an even stronger focus on influencing change in our new 3-year plan for 2022-25, developed at the end of 2021 through extensive collaboration with staff, Trustees, advisers and, crucially, our Experts by Experience Board, which continued to thrive last year.
2021 was not without operational challenges, from high staff turnover (seen across the sector) to labour market instability and a squeezed fundraising environment. Yet we responded with fortitude and flexibility: ending the year with our biggest ever team of 20 staff, new partnerships and a larger and more diverse income.
When Switchback published our plan for 2019-21 we couldn’t have imagined the tests we’d face along the way. Yet thanks to the agility of that plan and the commitment of our team, partners, donors, and, above all, Switchback Trainees, we end this chapter stronger than ever. We are well set up, then, to manage the transition to a new Chief Executive, following the announcement in May 2022 that Founder and CEO Alice Dawnay will move on in October 2022, after nearly 15 years at the helm. At the time of writing, a recruitment process is underway and we are confident of securing a fantastic new leader to drive Switchback into a new era. As Alice wrote in her announcement: “Healthy, fulfilling, adventurous lives have multiple chapters and I feel sure that the same is true for healthy organisations.”
”When I left the gate, I found out I was just by myself. It was a stressful experience, if I’m honest. They just leave you to your own devices. A lot of people will find themselves slippingTyrell, Switchback Trainee
back so easily. Switchback helped me get back on track.
Switchback’s ambitious new 3-year plan 2022-25, A Platform for Change, builds on the significant learning and progress outlined in this report as we strive for even greater impact. We hope you will come with us on this exciting new part of Switchback’s journey.
Duncan Shrubsole, Chair of Trustees
Alice Dawnay, Founder and CEO