Does anyone care about charity anniversaries?

Charities love celebrating anniversaries. Who doesn’t like a party? It is nice to celebrate achievements. But in truth, few people outside the charities concerned are terribly interested in how old a charity is. Unless, perhaps, there is an untold story to tell. We have been digging through our archives. For anyone interested in the history of social action, or prisons, or the role of faith communities, we are discovering some interesting stuff.  So before I share our exciting new news, I hope readers might be interested to hear a bit of the back story. And of course, if you’re just too busy to read it, you can always skip to the end…

It all began in South London in 1898…

120 years ago, a small group of citizens got together in London to create a new charity.  They were from a religious minority community, which found itself over-represented in the prison population. And so they decided that their own community needed to reach into prisons and offer hope and support. 

The inspiration came from a man who had three simple ideas. The first was that people in prison need hope, and that hope comes from feeling that one is still part of a community that cares. The second idea was that the children and families of prisoners should receive care and support in their own right. The third idea was that when people leave prison, every effort should be made to provide both emotional encouragement and practical support to enable them to make a fresh start, and that the very best hope for most ex-prisoners is to be re-united with their families. The man was called John Cooney.  He was a Catholic priest in South London. The charity that was created was called the Catholic Prisoners Aid Society. Today, we are called Pact.

Over the past 120 years, we have gone through numerous changes. We have had our ups and downs. For many years now, we have supported people regardless of their faith and have been a fully inclusive charity, whilst retaining our Catholic identity. 

For our first 100 years, you could count our staff on the fingers of one hand. In the last 20 years, we have grown, diversified, and developed. Today, we work in 65 prisons, and in courts and community settings across England & Wales.

Caring for our Roots, Exploring Routes to Change

For the past 12 months, we have been taking stock, and listening to the people we serve. Over the next few months we will be launching the fruits of those deliberations - our new Five Year Vision document. It is informed by prisoners, ex-prisoners, their mums, partners and children. It is informed by evidence and by our staff.  It’s a road map for us.   

Our service users told us that our Mission, Vision and Values mean something to them. They told us to stay authentic, and to take the greatest of care to look after our culture and defend our ethos. Their key message to us was straightforwardly encouraging. They told us to ‘keep doing what you are doing.’ So we will.

Our staff told us that they loved all the innovations we have been bringing in over recent years, but what they wanted was something bigger. They wanted us to ‘show the way forward in rehabilitation’. And so the trustees and I have set our number one strategic goal as being just that. And rather than looking for novel approaches, we are doing the opposite. Instead of innovation, we have decided that the time has come to bring together past innovations into a strategic model of service, which provides relational and family support from reception into a prison, to six months post release, working in custody and community. Our ambition is to show what can be done, as a proof of concept, when a prison fully implements Lord Farmer’s recommendations.

Putting Lord Farmer’s Recommendations into Practice – a ‘Family-First Prison’

So I am delighted to announce the imminent arrival of ‘Routes 2 Change’, a new strategic partnership between Pact, HMP Brixton and Porticus. Together, thanks to new charitable funding, a formal partnership agreement, and with the support of Lord Michael Farmer and senior HMPPS officials, we will be developing a programme of work to fully embed a relational ‘family-first’ approach in this local, public sector Cat C prison. We are advertising for a new team to take this exciting programme of work forward, setting up an Advisory Board which will be chaired by Lord Farmer. Over the next two years, we aim to be sharing our learning as we go, with HMPPS and voluntary sector colleagues, and we are delighted that through our partnership with Porticus, a team of top Academics will be commissioned to evaluate this new way of working. 

A Philosophy of Rehabilitation

Like so many great charities and voluntary groups, we have a clear philosophy behind what we do. Our focus is, and has always been, on what it means to be a human being. At times, this has felt counter-cultural, or at least, challenging to what often feels like a narrow and utilitarian ‘offender management’ culture. But we simply don’t believe there is a type of human called an ‘offender’. We just believe in people and in their innate potential to change. Nor do we believe in independence. We believe in inter-dependence and in the fundamental importance of healthy relationships and the family. Routes2Change will be a clear expression of our beliefs and we are proud and delighted to be working with Governor Dave Bamford and his team at HMP Brixton. We look forward to sharing the next stage of our journey with all our friends through the pages of Light Lunch.

To watch the Pact Story and see highlights from our extraordinary 120 year history, click here.

To keep up to date with our latest job opportunities and sign up for job alerts click here.