We’re delighted to share our 2022 Annual Report. With thanks to Switchback’s Founder, Alice Dawnay, for her considered input, Chair, Duncan Shrubsole, and CEO, Sian Williams.
A message from our Chair of Trustees, Duncan Shrubsole.
For Switchback, 2022 has been a year of both significant challenge and exciting change. As we began implementing our new 3-year plan 2022-25 with ambitious aims to double the number of young men we support and contribute to reshaping national resettlement policy, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the criminal justice system and wider society continued to have significant consequences for our work.
Chronic understaffing in the prison and probation services persistently restricted our access to prison wings until the second half of the year. And the young men who wanted our support – our Trainees – had significantly greater needs than we’d previously seen; four in ten had no qualifications and almost half had never worked. Lockdowns during the pandemic also meant they had far fewer opportunities during their sentence to develop employability skills, gain work experience or access support services. Trainees were five times less likely to have family support than in 2021, a quarter were care-experienced, over a third had never lived independently, and just under half were experiencing significant mental health challenges. The world which Trainees re-entered on release had also become even more difficult to navigate, as the crisis in the UK economy led to rising living costs and increased pressure on statutory services and housing; in 2022 more than six in ten Trainees were released homeless, compared to four in ten a year earlier.
Despite this challenging context, in 2022 we supported 49 young men leaving prison in London to become Switchback Trainees, providing intensive 1-1 support alongside access to training through our 12-week programme. 66% of 2022’s Engagers reached our benchmark of Real Lasting Change, above our 60% target and higher than in the previous two years, indicating that our impact is beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Not everyone we meet in prison needs the full support of our Real Lasting Change model; many simply need a few pre-release conversations involving a listening ear coupled with insightful questions and guidance to help them identify their goal and take positive steps towards it. In total we supported 533 young men (vs. 220 in 2021) to develop their plans for life post-release or access appropriate support.
Acutely aware that Trainees face multiple challenges as they work hard to build sustainable lives post-release, we continued to build our influencing strategy in close partnership with the Switchback Experts by Experience Board (EbE). Bolstered by our contribution to the sector’s success in 2021 in securing an increase in the prisoner discharge grant for the first time in 25 years (from £46 to £76), we focused on deepening our relationship with key teams across the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS, welcoming them to Switchback to workshop their emerging resettlement policy thinking with EbE members. And Switchback staff and Trainees shared our evidence – hard data from 14 years of delivering our model coupled with Trainees’ experiences – in response to multiple consultations, including the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee’s inquiry into probation in London.
EbE members felt strongly that our influencing effort should not only address government policy around release and resettlement, but also challenge the perception of people leaving prison across the media and wider society. So 2022 saw the launch of our new campaign, Flip the Script, which set out to foreground the voice and experience of young prison leavers in order to challenge social and racial injustice and champion change in the justice system. The campaign’s first podcast series, Time and Again, was launched to critical acclaim, providing a platform for six young men to share their stories of how they came to be in prison and their hopes and achievements following their release. The EbE team are already producing a new podcast series launching in 2023.
Hearing Trainees’ call for a society more supportive to people with lived experience of prison, we have also challenged ourselves to offer more employment opportunities for Trainees, creating three new introductory roles across the organisation in our Operations, Influencing and Delivery teams. Our new colleagues’ lived experience of the criminal justice system brings a depth of insight that is helping us shape a trauma-informed working environment, think anew about the potential for more inclusive recruitment and employment, and create supportive, yet challenging career development opportunities for people facing barriers from mainstream employers. In 2023 we aspire to build on this work, sharing our learning with other employers interested in recruiting people with lived experience of prison.
As our organisation grows in size and impact, we face the inevitable challenge of also needing to grow our income. In 2022 our expenditure exceeded one million pounds for the first time, and we have worked diligently to put in place the controls required to manage this greater financial risk and responsibility. We hope our plans for 2023 and beyond will excite and attract both existing and new funders who share our twin missions for supporting even more young men build sustainable lives they can be proud of, and shaping a society in which everyone has the opportunity to live a stable and rewarding life.
Finally, in 2022 we said goodbye to our Founder and CEO, Alice Dawnay, after nearly 15 years at the helm. We owe Alice a huge debt of gratitude, firstly for seeing the need for holistic, reliable, and strengths-based support for young men leaving prison that transforms lives, and for giving her all for so long to nurture Switchback into the high-impact and trusted organisation that it is today. In turn, as we build the new Leadership Team, our commitment is to uphold the values that Alice and the Switchback team embody and make our best efforts to grow the work and our impact sustainably and in the spirit of all that Switchback stands for; building trusted relationships which hold achieving better outcomes for Trainees at their heart. We invite you to join us in this exciting new phase of Switchback’s journey.
Switchback Chair of Trustees