'We lost everything' – the prisoner-support service that turned adversity into impact during Covid-19

The Making a Mark competition, run annually by social enterprise accreditation body Social Enterprise Mark CIC, celebrates and recognises the incredible impact created by social enterprises, and this has never been more important than after the challenges of the last year, where the social enterprise community went above and beyond in their response to the Covid-19 outbreak, says Sophie Short from Social Enterprise Mark CIC.

Today, Sophie reveals the final winner of the 2021 competition – Beyond Recovery – and shares the story of how the enterprise made its own remarkable recovery to support its wide community of prison residents, professionals and service graduates.

Beyond Recovery is a fast-growing social enterprise that aims to revolutionise the way mental health and addiction is viewed and treated, particularly within the criminal justice system.

Its mission is “to provide a cost-effective, evidence-based intervention which enables prisoners to uncover their innate mental well-being and consequently improve their mental health and behaviour in prison. This, in turn, enables them to have a stronger purpose in life and to live a more satisfying and law-abiding life on release.”

A very high proportion of prisoners have mental health problems (37%), substance misuse problems (64% prisoners have used a Class A drug) or both (monitoring data on 6,500 prisoners in substance misuse treatment found they had an average of 3.4 mental health problems each), reports the organisation on its website. It adds that a recent report by the National Audit Office made it clear that the prison service is struggling to help prisoners with these needs.

Through its rehabilitation programmes, which aim to “uncover the innate wellbeing in all people”, Beyond Recovery is making a proven difference to people with repeat offending behaviour, complex mental health issues and drug and alcohol problems.

The judges in this year's Making a Mark competition were really impressed with Beyond Recovery’s entry, especially as a fairly new social enterprise, which had to adapt quickly when the Covid restrictions meant they weren’t able to deliver their offender rehabilitation programmes in prisons.

At the start of 2020, they had a number of contracts and speaking opportunities lined up, which were all lost due to the subsequent restrictions imposed with the Covid outbreak. As founder Jaqueline Hollows explains: “We lost everything. We had to hunker down and rewrite our business plan completely… We’ve come out of the last 12 months as a completely different enterprise, with strong programmes and the capability of scaling, as well as a reinforced ethos to help people see that adversity can be used for opportunity.”

Alexander Fahie, CEO of Ethical Angel and one of the judges, commented: “I commend the resilience Beyond Recovery has shown. To generate a new business plan is inspiring especially when faced with the additional and complex issues relating to their beneficiaries.”

By sharing my experiences, and showing them where I was going wrong, and what I have now been doing right, I could help to get the message across to other people that it is possible to make a change

Their video submission (below) clearly explained the significant impact Covid has had on their beneficiaries, many of whom have lost their access to education and social connections due to the ongoing restrictions in prisons. It also illustrates how they involve their beneficiaries and stakeholders in both the design and delivery of the support they provide. For example, this year a number of their apprentices became directors of the organisation, providing a lived experience perspective of the challenges they are seeking to address.

As Derrick Mason, a Beyond Recovery apprentice, explains: “If we can roll this out into the community and the wider prison population, I think it could benefit a lot of people. By sharing my experiences, and showing them where I was going wrong, and what I have now been doing right, I could help to get the message across to other people that it is possible to make a change.”


Highly Commended

In addition to Beyond Recovery, the judges also wanted to recognise West Midlands based carer support service Forward Carers as a very close contender and have awarded them Highly Commended status.

As Pauline Gannon, Co-Founder of Social Impact Ireland and one of the judges, explained: “I loved how the video gave a voice to so many. They brought you to the heart of their social enterprise and the work they do. It was a very well laid out story and explanation, which showed how they rose to all challenges and showed great adaptability and resilience.”



More about this year's competition

Usually, we celebrate the competition finalists at a special awards ceremony, as part of our annual conference, but due to the uncertainty around Covid restrictions, the decision was made to postpone the conference again this year. Therefore, we are excited to be working with our media partner Pioneers Post to showcase the fantastic stories of impact that characterise the social enterprise sector.

Earlier this year, we invited our social enterprise community to share their ‘Story of 2020’, illustrating how their organisation responded to the Covid-19 outbreak and how they have weathered the storm to continue providing much needed support to local communities and wider society. We were really impressed with the quality and variety of submissions, which were scored by an external judging panel, made up of representatives from across the social business sector, including Tim West, founding editor of Pioneers Post.

Last month, we announced five finalists, selected by the judging panel as shining examples of the vast contribution social enterprises have made in the response to the Covid crisis, as well as being exemplary ‘social enterprise stories’. The finalists were a diverse mix of social enterprises, ranging in size and coming from across a variety of sectors, from carer support to dentistry, and from offender rehabilitation to higher education. They each submitted a video entry, illustrating the impact of Covid-19 on the organisation, its beneficiaries and other stakeholders, and how they have worked to address these impacts.The other finalists for 2021 were: Hope Enterprises, Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise and University of Winchester.


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The judges

Big thanks go to our external judging panel for their time and support:

  • Alexander Fahie – CEO of Ethical Angel
  • Ali Ward – General Manager of Social Enterprise Yorkshire & Humber (SEYH)
  • Kevin Armstrong – Policy Lead at UnLtd
  • Pauline Gannon – Co-founder of Social Impact Ireland
  • Sona Mahtani – Director of Beyond Just Now
  • Tim West – Founding Editor and CEO of Pioneers Post


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