What our clients say.

“My Background: From the age of 3 to 18, I was in the care system. After that I spent roughly 15yrs homeless with a few short sentences in prison.  Eventually I was given an IPP sentence getting a 1yr 210 days tariff in which I ended up serving 10yrs. Drugs and alcohol leading to crime was a massive part of my life and in my opinion the three kind of go hand in hand. But as bad as the sentence was to be honest it saved my life and I took every advantage to gain my education and relevant training.  One of the chaplaincy team referred me to the CCN and they came to visit me in prison. Prior to this visit I had my Parole Board and was granted my release to Supported housing in Norwich. On the day of my release I arrived at the supported housing and to my surprise CCN had left me a food parcel and some clothes. Which really helped as my first day out was such a whirlwind and quite overwhelming. But the help and support that CCN and the mentors provided me was so beneficial.”

– Male client, aged 48

 “The most helpful thing about working with my mentor is them supporting me through all of my issues, and I feel safe, because I am with a non-user, someone normal”

– Male client, aged 27

“On my release from prison in early January this year I was met at the gate by CCN.  It was a cold morning and all I had on was a pair of trackies and a jumper and I was thinking to myself I was better off inside, but by the end of the day, I had a full set of clothes, somewhere to live, got me on the Council Housing list and registered with CGL.  It’s now March and I have my own room in a lovely place at the House of Genesis with a totally different outlook on my life.  I am now drug free and fighting my battle with addiction in a nicer environment and it’s all with the help from the Community Chaplaincy.  If it wasn’t for them, I truly believe I would be a) back inside or b) have a raging drug habit…”

-Male client, aged 49

“My experience (of CCN) has been an altogether good one, you have been helpful, friendly, understanding and most of all non-judgemental about my crime and my past and I feel relaxed and able to talk openly about things that are happening and have happened in my life, and the support I have got has helped me feel confident that there is support there for me after my release as well.”

-Male client, aged 46, D Category prisoner at Britannia House, HMP Norwich

Input from other agencies.

One of the keys to success for CCN clients is accessing a broad range of specialist support and this requires our staff and volunteers to have an up to date knowledge of other provision.  We continue to work hard to develop and maintain strong, working relationships with other professionals, both in and out of the prisons. 

“I appreciate all that CCN do with the cohort that you serve. This is particularly poignant in the service users that we work with jointly.  Being on the 180 scheme the service users are difficult to reach from a police perspective, display issues of mental and physical health which actually places them in a vulnerable category, and this is particularly significant with rough sleepers.

A recent example of the work you have been doing is with Conrad (not his real name) who is being supported with 1 of your mentors as well as Genesis housing.  The support you give him, I know is continuing and this is really helpful in bringing about his confidence and opportunities at reintegration. His alcohol consumption was way off the scale and had a direct impact on emergency services and his criminality. With your patience and support he is gradually overcoming his agoraphobia and this level of service could not be provided by the likes of 180. It is just too time consuming. Your flexibility, commitment and dedication to supporting him, I am in no doubt, has benefited him and all associated services.

Additionally, with the 180 bridge model you play a direct link with supporting changes in attitude which has a knock on effect with desistance from crime. The 180 scheme was recently nominated for an international award regarding the bridge model and what you do links directly into this.

 Although not on the 180 scheme Colin (not his real name) is a great example of this and on the very first occasion I had with him which was in 2008, he was a completely different person. It came to light that he was being supported by you at a CCN meeting. Further to this and in recent months I had opportunity to speak to Colin where he was trying to support another individual on the 180 scheme. On this occasion he demonstrated decision making skills that previously would not have been a consideration and he was able to process that, although he was trying to assist the individual, it was better for him to step back. By his own admission he was still trying to process his own issues. Again, this is something that you have been able to provide continuity with and ongoing support that is so crucial in rehabilitation.

It should also be recognised from your perspective that desistance is difficult to measure without direct access to crime figures but the feedback he has given to you speaks volumes.

These are just some examples of the work that you have an impact on and I have nothing but good things to say about CCN. In these times of austerity, Covid 19 and the pressure on statutory services you play such a valuable link in reducing impact on services and the support to those who may otherwise be isolated.  I look forward to working with you in the future.” 

-A Police Sergeant, Norfolk and Suffolk 180 Team

 “I have found CCN a really positive experience. Soon after my initial referrals, the cases have been picked up quickly (much needed in some cases) and contact made soon after with the offender. This has included meeting with the individual prior to release to promote engagement and to ensure their particular needs are known before returning to the community. CCN have helped individuals attend appointments, signpost to relevant agencies and provide an added layer of support, all of which encourages desistance from offending and reintegration into the community. I will continue to promote the scheme to individuals I work with at HMP Norwich.”

  -A Custody Probation Officer, Probation POM

From CCN Mentors.

“The Mentoring Training helped me to gain a more professional understanding and approach to the support I was already giving to a vulnerable young lady. Understanding boundaries helped me to support my client with less emotion and a more professional approach which made a difference. Having clear, safe boundaries built my confidence in the support I was able to offer. Being part of CCN meant that I received support and had other people to discuss my client’s progress with. An understanding of the Criminal Justice System given in training and the ongoing support and advice within CCN made a big difference to my feeling more confident and professional in my volunteering role.”

 – H.H. CCN Mentor

“Once a month for about 15 years I had taken part in the Salvation Army ‘Soup Run’ for the homeless in Norwich. I had come to realise that some of these predominantly young men had been released from prison or were expecting to return.  After working in the NHS for 39 years, I decided that when I retired, I wanted to volunteer helping prisoners in some way. It seemed more than a coincidence when about six weeks before my retirement date, I attended a talk at our Church on the work of Community Chaplaincy Norfolk (CCN). They asked for volunteers to help in various ways, including those willing to be trained as CCN Mentors. I signed up.

I’ve been a mentor for over two years now. It’s been at times interesting, challenging, uplifting, disappointing but always thought provoking. I regard it as befriending, but with a purpose: to help that person adjust to life in a bewildering and at times frightening society after a time of imprisonment. It’s much more challenging than a brief chat over a cup of tea but is so much the better for it. You can learn as much from a client about their previous life and problems on release, as they can from you about how to ‘negotiate’ society. I’ve found it very rewarding and it has undoubtedly deepened my Christian faith.”

– M.A. CCN Mentor

Norfolk men show what mentoring looks like

Community Chaplaincy Norfolk (CCN) clocked up a major success when it paired its multi-talented mentor Thomas with Adie, a highly motivated prison leaver.

Pictured is Thomas teaching Adie the guitar.

The two are now reflecting on their first year together and celebrating the many achievements Adie has made in his personal and social life and his volunteer work.

Community Chaplaincy Norfolk (CCN) is a Christian charity that, since 2018, has trained volunteer mentors to support people as they leave prison to live in Norfolk. Thomas completed training in 2021, and soon after CCN Manager Mel Wheeler introduced him to his client, Adie.

Thomas is blind, and one of his first meetings with Adie’s ended up being quite eventful when his guide dog, Chester, got confused by the unfamiliar route between St Stephen’s Church, where CCN is based, and Thomas’ own church. “I didn’t know the way either,” laughs Adie, “and we ended up down the wrong end of Queen’s Road.”

“Adie has always been really helpful,” adds Thomas, “understanding Chester’s responsibilities and how to teach him the route.” The trio were eventually rescued by Thomas’ wife and have since bonded over their early adventure.

Thomas and Adie realised early on that they shared an interest in music, and Thomas started bringing his guitar to their meetings and teaching Adie how to play. Adie was recently gifted a brand-new guitar by an old school friend, enabling him to practise at home. The pair also share an interest in boats – Thomas lives on a boat with his family, and Adie would like to buy a boat in future and use it as a base for helping people who are struggling with addiction.

In the future Adie hopes to use his skills and experience to help others. He recently signed up for a counseling course, and Thomas’ support helped him to overcome his anxiety about going to register. “I asked Thomas to come with me because he knows me,” Adie says, adding that in the end, the experience was a positive one. “The person running the course said that they need people like me. When I do the course, I want to give it 100%.”

When asked what the best thing is about the mentoring experience, both men mention the enjoyment they find in each other’s company, and the mutual respect and appreciation they feel for each other. “We just get on,” Adie says. “I never lie to Tom.” 

“It’s been nice to spend time with someone who’s so open to going through different doors and trying new things,” said Thomas, who Adie calls ‘Brother Tom.’ “I appreciate how positive Adie is, even when going through low points.”

“If you didn’t have the bad times, you wouldn’t know what the good times were,” Adie adds. Thomas helps Adie to reflect and focus on the positives, of which there are many, including Adie’s volunteering in a local community café and garden, and how this has helped him connect with people and build a support network.

“When you list out all the good things, suddenly your day seems quite positive,” Thomas says. “It can help to remember that when things don’t seem to be going so well.”

“At CCN, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the enthusiasm and commitment of mentors like Thomas, or the dedication of clients like Adie to changing their lives for the better,” says CCN Mentor Coordinator Abby Erwin. “It’s inspiring to see what positive difference they have made to each other’s lives.” 

“CCN mentors support their clients in everything from that first, overwhelming day through the prison gate,” she adds “to meeting up regularly for a coffee and a chat, or even going to an art gallery or on a dog walk together. Each mentoring relationship is as unique as the people involved.”

CCN is regularly  seeking new mentors to work with people leaving prison and help them to rebuild their lives. “Mentoring is a uniquely varied, challenging and rewarding voluntary role,” Abby says. “All our mentors attend an 8-week training course and receive ongoing support in the form of one-to-one supervisions and group meetings. We welcome mentors from all faiths and none, and from all walks of life. We are looking for people over 25 years of age, who are confident and empathetic, IT literate, and who have some relevant experience.” For more information see our volunteering page.

This article appeared in Network Norwich in May 2022.