Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner -  
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PCC invests again in the right ‘Direction’ for ex-Offenders
Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, is marking  the first anniversary Direction for Bedfordshire - the one-stop support service for ex-offenders, their family and friends to help turn their lives around - by investing a further £85,000 in the service which has worked closely with more than 160 offenders in the first year.
 
In addition to the 160 plus former offenders to have received one to one support from specialists, via the Direction call centre, there have been almost 7000 visits to the 
https://directionforbedfordshire.co.uk  website and over 200 organisations are co- operating together under the Direction umbrella to provide a package to assist those wishing to turn away from criminality on release from prison.
 
“For a service which is only one year old, Direction has proved beyond all doubt that it's delivering a positive contribution to make Bedfordshire a safer place every day. What’s more, by providing advice to former offenders, even before they come through the HMP Bedford gates, we are giving them a far greater chance of a life outside criminality. With the continued support of my office, we look forward to developing this service even further in the second year.
 
“Ex prisoners can access support, either on the website of all relevant services or by speaking with or meeting Direction staff on a one to one basis. What’s been so impressive is that the Direction team has proved flexible to respond to the needs of this group to develop the service to work within the prison in Bedford as part of its 'through the gate’ programme and also setting up surgeries in community and other centres when former offenders and their families indicated that they wanted face to face support as well as the call centre service. It’s been hugely impressive,” said Commissioner Holloway.

‘Direction for Bedfordshire’ was a key objective in the Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan following the success of Signpost, the Victim support hub she introduced to provide support for those who have been impacted by crime, which also offers a web directory of services and a call centre team. Created on the same model, Direction for Bedfordshire was set up to support and create life changing pathways for offenders needing help with finance, alcohol or drug misuse, accommodation, employment opportunities, health and reconciliation with their partners and families.
 
“What was so important to me was that former offenders themselves helped my office and our delivery partner, the charity YouTurn Futures, to design the Direction service, from the areas covered to the wording on the website. It would’ve been no good at all for us to try to decide for them what they’d need on exiting prison and we’ve made adaptations as a result of feedback too, introducing a service and information specifically for women, whose needs can be slightly different if children are involved,” said PCC Holloway.
 
Working with other agencies, a directory of services was created which allowed the team managed by Luton-based charity, YouTurn Futures, the ability to receive calls via a Freephone number 0800 917 5579, the dedicated website and face to face meetings to guide people to the right agency or pathway, depending on the area of need.
 
The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and Direction for Bedfordshire brokered a deal with the Department for Work and Pensions to enable released prisoners the chance to receive benefits and employment advice on the same day as their first visit to Jobcentres across the county to reduce the immediate risk of re-offending upon release. As well as working with HMP Bedford, Direction for Bedfordshire has also supported families of those currently in prison.
 
YouTurn director Stuart Smith said” We're delighted in the progress ‘Direction for Bedfordshire’ has made in its first year. Its priorities have been to support individuals who are at risk of criminality and connect them with services that can get them back on track and also to deliver effective partnership working by linking up support agencies to enhance collaborative working.”
During the pandemic, Direction for Bedfordshire has been working with partner organisations to establish what support is still available for those being released from prison or their families to reduce the chances and opportunities for re-offending at such a challenging time.