The new hub has been developed by the Reconnected to Health partnership – Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust, Humankind, Spectrum Community Health CIC and Rethink – four organisations which work together to improve long-term outcomes for offenders in seven prisons across the North East. Since 2019, this partnership has supported 1,292 prison-leavers to transition back into the community with support from RECONNECT.
The hub will be a key point of access for people leaving HMP Durham and other local prisons.
Service users can use the hub to make calls, attend initial appointments on release day, get help with practical needs such as charging phones / electronics and pick up forms and paperwork to help them engage with follow-on support. In just six months, the Hub has already provided a space for multiple community groups which support vulnerable adults including Gamblers Anonymous, Alcoholic Anonymous and housing provider drop-ins.
The RECONNECT Hub also offers a safe space in the centre to local agencies, welcoming everyone from housing providers to employment agencies, volunteering organisations, mental health charities, social care and drug and alcohol treatment providers.
It was officially opened by the Rt Hon Lord Bradley PC (a life peer and former Minister of State for Prisons) alongside Kate Davies CBE, Director of Health and Justice Commissioning for NHS England, and Dr Linda Harris OBE, Chief Executive of Spectrum Community Health CIC. Service users who have been supported by RECONNECT will also be in attendance to take part in the launch.
Lord Bradley said: “I’m delighted to be officially opening the RECONNECT hub, an important facility which has the potential to make a real difference in the North East and help people who are leaving custody to make a fresh start. By making it easier to access health services and support after prison, we are reducing the risk of reoffending and helping to build safer, healthier communities for everyone.”
The development of the hub has been supported by local partners including HMP Durham, Durham Constabulary, Durham County Council, Jobcentre Plus, HM Prisons and Probation Service and many other organisations as part of a regional initiative to support re-integration and reduce reoffending.