Real work training leading to a job after release is just one part of the Switchback process. We challenge and encourage our Trainees to take control and make real, lasting change: a fundamental shift in mindset and lifestyle.
This is new territory for most Trainees: a frank, non-judgemental relationship with someone who is there for them on a daily basis, helping to navigate the turbulent transition from prison to community.
”“Switchback provide real hope for change and keeps itself very personal – it’s not about targets, it is genuinely about helping people, and for the young men I look after that is really important.”Emily Thomas, Governor, HMP & YOI Isis
Our methods are careful and consistent, rolling with the ups and downs of real life. We challenge and encourage our Trainees to take control and build stability across all areas of life spanning 10 Switchback Pathways from housing to health.
Switchback supports 18-30 year olds returning to London. The form that our support takes varies with each Trainee but includes the same three core stages:
1. In Prison
An eligible prisoner meets regularly with his Switchback Mentor during his last three months inside to prepare practically and emotionally for release, building motivation to change and making a plan for the future.
2. In Training
The same Switchback Mentor meets him on the day of release. Real work training with a partner employer begins straight away, alongside 1-to-1 support to build stability across all areas of life. Trainees go on a range of new experiences, from employer visits to camping and surfing trips, to broaden horizons and open new opportunities.
3. In Work
The Trainee moves into sustainable work or further training at the right time for him, with a period of in-work support to ensure change is sustained long-term. The door is always open for Trainees to return.
We encourage and challenge Trainees across all areas of their lives. We’ve broken these areas down into the 10 Switchback Pathways shown in the diagram below.
As each Trainee progresses through the programme, we record specific achievements and changes in stability under each Pathway. This whole-person approach means that when Trainees enter work or housing, they have the stability to stay there long-term through the ups and downs.
We work with a small group of fantastic real work training partners where Switchback Trainees begin training two days per week immediately after their release from prison. These are businesses who provide a supportive, inspiring environment in which Trainees can build skills, confidence and routine.
Nearly half of Switchback Trainees have never worked before. Training in a real work environment, underpinned by continuous 1-to-1 support from their Switchback Mentor, provides a vital ‘buffer zone’ in which to learn from mistakes and develop the skills and resilience needed to sustain work. Our current real work training partners are:
”Training in the cafe after prison meant I kept busy, so I didn’t fall back into something else. I got really into making coffee and I love working now.
I never thought I would be able to say that but I just love it!”James, Barista and former Switchback Trainee
Switchback Mentors are not volunteers. They are full-time, paid and highly skilled. They each work with a small caseload and they must be willing to become the most important person in a Trainee’s life whilst also working towards that no longer being the case.
A Switchback Mentor is in touch with a Trainee daily; anything from a quick chat to several hours talking through a single issue. One of these meetings every week is an Action Planning session. A Switchback Mentor helps a Trainee learn how to make the right choices, be reliable, get the help he needs and work towards his goals.
”There’s not really one word to describe the relationship with my Switchback Mentor. She’s someone you’re close to but who is outside your peer group; someone non-judgmental who understands you.
I never had someone like that in my life before. She helped me find the answers for myself.”Ahmed, Switchback Trainee
Switchback sets the bar higher than reducing reoffending or securing employment.
We support Switchback Trainees to build a stable, rewarding life. This is real, lasting change: a total shift in how Trainees think about and participate in society.
of Switchback Trainees reach our benchmark of Real, Lasting Change: a fundamental shift in mindset and lifestyle.
of Switchback Trainees who complete the programme move into long-term work, education or training.
of Switchback Trainees do not reoffend within a year of release.
”"I don’t know where I’d be without Switchback. They restored a lot of things. My faith, my trust, my mentality. You’re allowed to open up at a rate that works for you. You’re a person, not a plan.
There’s so much to look forward to now. I used to see the world in a totally different light. I used to see it in black and grey, now I see it in colours."Michael, Chef and former Switchback Trainee
Switchback supports over 300 young Londoners every year on their journey out of the justice system and towards a stable, rewarding life.
young men each year become Switchback Trainees, with 1-to-1 support through-the-gate and real work training after release
months average 1-to-1 support on both sides of the prison gate. Average total contact is 16 months.
Preparing for release
young men each year receive up to three months of 1-to-1 support in prison to prepare for release
months average weekly support to build confidence and motivation and make a realistic plan for the future.
Since 2008 Switchback has supported over 2,000 young men to live life differently:
young men have become Switchback Trainees, with intensive 1-to-1 support through the gate and real work training after release
young men supported in prison with up to three months of 1-to-1 sessions to prepare practically and emotionally for release
Longford Prize 2019
Charity of the Year 2019, Charity Times Awards
Outstanding Organisation 2017, Criminal Justice Alliance Awards
Robin Corbett Award for Prisoner Re-Integration 2016
”“I was totally closed off before. But speaking with my Switchback Mentor created that trust, that bond.
I can talk to her about anything, I know she’s not going to judge me. If I didn’t take that step to come to Switchback I’d probably be back inside.”Raihan, Hotel Receptionist and former Switchback Trainee
After a decade of successfully supporting young men to find a way out of the justice system, we are using our 10 years of evidence, data and experience to inspire more human, more effective policy and practice across the justice system and beyond.
Young men in the justice system are facing more barriers to success than we have seen before: violent and chaotic prisons, a fractured probation system and disjointed welfare, health and housing services. Too many people leaving prison return to crime due to a lack of consistent support, and too often our Trainees succeed in spite of the system rather than because of it.
We know the power of a local, relationship-centred approach and its potential to transform outcomes for people across the system. So after a decade of successfully supporting young men to find a way out of the justice system, we are using our 10 years of evidence, data and experience to inspire more human, more effective policy and practice across criminal justice and beyond.
We know we can’t change the system alone, so we are actively working with others to share our evidence and build a constructive alternative that gives everyone a real chance to change.
Read our publication, More Human, More Effective, for an insight into the changes in the system we want to see, and get in touch to join us and ensure that everyone can live a stable, rewarding life they can be proud of.
Switchback’s most important value is keeping Trainees at the heart of everything we do, so our Experts by Experience Board is central to our influencing work. This group of current and former Switchback Trainees meets regularly and ensures that our policy activity is rooted in the real lives and experiences of those who understand the impact of the system best: the experts by experience.
”The transition from prison back into the community is so often when the system fails. Switchback is a focussed, inspiring resettlement charity that is a beacon of hope at a time when centrally-funded alternatives are in chaos.”Longford Prize judges’ citation, 2019
”“A lot of us have friends who are still in the system.Pellum, Switchback Expert by Experience
We’re trying to change the system to help our friends.
We’re trying to make a difference for them.”
We deliver creative training programmes for organisations and practitioners working with people in the justice system, or with others facing multiple and complex needs. Sessions are often co-designed and delivered with our Experts by Experience. To find out more please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 650 8989 to discuss your requirements.
“Teams from other prisons would definitely benefit. More of this kind of training would help me to support and encourage the clients that I work with. It would also help to give them a positive outlook on life after prison.”Resettlement Co-ordinator, Community Rehabilitation Company
“The prison officers really enjoyed it and have said they will use things they learnt in their roles as keyworkers, especially the ‘stretch zone’ tools and techniques.”Head of Learning and Skills, HMP/YOI Isis
“It was striking to see the extent to which the Switchback Mentors apply the model in every engagement with Trainees. The materials used clearly enable Trainees to engage fully in developing their own journey. I found the two days – and your colleagues - genuinely inspirational.”Richard Good, Director, The Turnaround Project