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.
In 2020, in rapid response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Switchback also launched our new Foundation for Stability programme: six weeks of intensive 1-to-1 support beginning immediately upon release. See below for more information.
”“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 and make a plan for release. When meeting inside isn’t possible, there’s an option to begin straight after release.
2. In Training
The same Switchback Mentor meets him on the day of release. Up to 12 weeks of real-work training begins alongside therapeutic mentoring to build stability across all areas of life.
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 the 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 number of fantastic training and employment partners where Switchback Trainees gain vital work experience, training and long-term jobs.
Our real-work training partners are businesses who provide a supportive, inspiring environment in which Trainees can build skills, confidence and routine. Our primary real-work training partner is The Dusty Knuckle Bakery, a social enterprise bakery and cafe with sites in Dalston, and Harringey. Here, Switchback Trainees begin training for two days per week for up to 12 weeks immediately after release.
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.
”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 starting work.
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 move into long-term work, education or training. This compares to only 12% of prison-leavers nationally who are in work six months after release.
of Switchback Trainees do not reoffend within a year of release. Nationally, 45% of prison-leavers reoffend within a year of release – for Switchback Trainees, the figure is just 9%.
”"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
Since 2008 Switchback has supported over 2,500 young Londoners 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
”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
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 download our training pack below. 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