‘Grot spot’ scheme gets Commissioner’s support

Tony Lloyd speaks to ex-offenders involved in the Northwards Housing scheme

A scheme which employs ex-offenders to clean up ‘grot spots’ across north Manchester has led to a 60% reduction in reoffending rates since it started four years ago.

The group, called Your Environmental Team (YET), allows the ex-offenders – all from the local area – to get themselves back on their feet. All of the offenders employed by the scheme have spent time in jail.

Gary Conway, 42, from Newton Heath, has been in and out of prison since he was a teenager, after becoming addicted to crack cocaine and heroin. He was released from prison in July after serving a 10 month sentence for shoplifting.

He said: “Getting this job has changed my prospects entirely. It’s given me confidence, it’s helped me get a CV together and I’ve been able to demonstrate teamwork.

“I’m up at 6am every morning, there’s a reason to get up, to go to work. To start a new life for yourself. I don’t know where I would be without the project.”

The national re-offending rate of those who have been in prison is 47.2 per cent (MOJ figures). The rate of re-offending on the YET project is 19 per cent.

Tony visited the scheme on Friday 11 October.

“What this project does is help people get normality in their lives – developing the good habits of getting up for a job and showing that they can do it. It helps put a stop to the revolving door of going in and out of prison, helps people better themselves and that should be applauded,” he said.

Claire Tyrrell, head of neighbourhood services for Northwards Housing, said: “We’re ensuring that ex-offenders don’t slip back into the life that got them into prison in the first place.

“They gain valuable experience in the world of work, earning a real wage and can be more included in society.”

The team are currently working on a plot of land in Moston. The communal garden had been tended by a keen gardener on the estate, but when he died, it became overgrown and unsightly. The team will be helping tidy up the land, pulling down sheds and scaling back undergrowth.

The team is managed by Blue Sky, a social enterprise backed by environmental charity Groundwork, with help from Greater Manchester Probation Trust.

The other social housing providers behind YET are Adactus Housing Association, Arawak Walton, Great Places, Guinness Northern Counties, Johnnie Johnson, Places for People and Tung Sing.

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