One Spirit – Update March 2019

The One Spirit project has enjoyed continued success over the last 12 months delivering its 10th year of music based and resettlement focused projects across 3 institutions: HMYOI Feltham (A & B Side), HMYOI Cookham Wood and HMP Highdown, as well as in communities around Greater and Central London.


With a monthly presence in all three institutions One Spirit has engaged 177 young people over the course of the year in its weeklong RESIDENCY projects, 1to1 IN-CUSTODY MENTORING sessions or 1to1 THROUGH THE GATE MENTORING sessions in the community post release. Of the 177 young people who participated 51 have accessed one or more strands of the project. 5 young people have been released during the year and accessed our Through the Gate program, making the number of those currently working with One Spirit in the community 37.


The number young people serving sentences for violent crimes has increased since last year. At times we have delivered to groups of participants half of whom are serving sentences for murder. This has made the ‘classroom’ a more highly charged environment, not so much because of potential conflict between participants (only one incident in the year) but because of the underlying frustrations, fears and general mental health of the young people. We continue to create ever more breathing room in the activities we deliver and keep well being embedded in our primary targets. This year residency and in-custody mentoring participants said:


“Coming here is just calm… like de-stressing if that makes sense.” Participant at HMYOI Feltham


“It made me feel more confident because I was working with other young people and it made me confident because of help from staff.” Participant HMYOI Cookham Wood


From evidence and feedback collected from participants: 92% said they felt more confident; 92% felt better about the future; 63% felt more able to manage anger/frustration and 58% said they felt more motivated as a result of participating.


An external evaluation has been carried out over the year by Dr Anthony Gunter (Senior Lecturer Criminology UEL) for which he has observed One Spirit in residency at Cookham Wood and Feltham and working in the community in London and the South East. The report analyses the data collected and outcomes observed during the period but more importantly aims to tell ‘the story behind the data’, with first hand observations, direct feedback and interviews supporting and explaining the figures and ultimately telling ‘how and why One Spirit works’.


One Spirit ‘through the gate’ has worked with a total of 37 young people and young adults over the course of the last year. 13 young people are accessing the programme at least once a month, engaged in activities from making/recording music to getting help from One Spirit to set up their own business or more generally search for jobs or prepare for interviews. Just under half of the 37 are more occasional attendees on the programme, making contact, for example, for specific advice regarding a recording contract (in one case), setting up a limited company (in another) or just to catch up. One Spirit mentors have also helped several young men recently released to prepare for and access apprenticeship programs in construction and catering/hospitality. Predictable, but nevertheless interesting to observe is how much more mature participants become around the age of 19/20. The reoffending rate amongst the through the gate group of 37 young men is 10%. 33 out of 37 have stayed out of custody for 6 months or more, with 25 out of custody for longer than 12 months. Of the 4 young men who were recalled to custody 2 were 17, 1 was 18 and 1 was 21.


58% of those accessing the Through the Gate programme are in employment and 29% are in further education / training.


Going into 2019 One Spirit will continue its work in all 3 prisons with some exciting developments. At HMYOI Cookham Wood we will explore working more with prisoners accessing ROTL (Release on Temporary Licence) in a bid to create ever more consistency for young people during their transition from custody to community. Demand across the prison has grown in general throughout the year and One Spirit and Cookham Wood are looking at various ways to increase access to the programme in the prison during 2019. At HMYOI Feltham B Side One Spirit will develop its mentoring programme in a new bespoke space on Education B Side, working with the Learning and Skills department to consolidate and lend specialisation to the Employment and Resettlement offering.


“I was transfixed with how one of the young men was connecting with the HMDT tutor. There are many females working here, so the fact that the HMDT tutor was a man and spoke the lingo was really good. The HMDT team had the young men focused and engaged for the entire session. In the team meeting I spoke about how impressed I was with the One Spirit project and the work HMDT were doing with the young men.” Female Staff Tutor HMYOI Cookham Wood.


Article: Charlie Parker, Project Manager, One Spirit


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