OFFENDERS leaving custody in Swindon will have more support getting back on their feet as a new project begin in autumn.

Earlier this year, charity SCA received a £29,000 grant from the Police and Crime Commissioner’s £1m Innovation Fund to set up a tailored advocacy service for ex-offenders.

The project aims to reduce re-offending rates by engaging ex-offenders as they leave custody and equipping them with the tools they need to stop them resorting to crime.

Fiona Price, the director of business development at SCA, said: “We tend to find that a lot of the people who reoffend tend to do so because they leave custody and they don’t know how to go about finding work and they end up reoffending by stealing, and ending up in custody again.

“Our purpose is to give them that support and bring down those reoffending rates.

“We get referrals from the police from people about to leave custody in Swindon and we engage with them as soon as they leave custody.

“It’s particularly important for people who may have reoffended in the past and for particularly vulnerable people who need support when it comes to housing, employment, debt, advocacy, service, and help with claiming their benefits as well.”

Some ex-offenders are drawn into a cycle of crime because of the limited support they receive on leaving custody and this project is one of the first to be set up that aims to directly engage and support offenders.

Fiona said: “People seem to assume that if you give them the right list of numbers to call and tell them where they need to go that they will do it, but most of the time they don’t because they don’t know how and they don’t have the confidence to.

“It’s just not being talked about and people just don’t think about what support people need when they leave custody. There are lots of different people and organisations there to help and support people but sometimes it’s difficult for the offenders to know where to go and who to contact.”

The service, which has already been successfully set up in Southampton, is run almost entirely by volunteers supported by an advocacy manager, and now SCA is looking for around 45 people to sign up to help provide the service.

Fiona said: “We’re looking for people from all walks of life, all backgrounds and experiences who think they can support someone leaving custody and commit to a few hours each week.”