Thursday, February 09, 2006

An holistic person-centred approach to Rehabilitation

Patterns of criminal behaviour and substance misuse can only be interrupted by tackling the ‘real’ causes of crime. That is, until ‘people’ are treated as unique individuals and there is a real understanding that anti-social behaviour is triggered by emotional, human and criminogenic needs not being met, then crime will persist. Punishment, by itself, fails to meet these individual and fundamental needs. Rather it serves to demoralise, de-motivate and depress, thus perpetuating the existing situation. As Lord Ramsbotham once remarked, ‘if custody worked we would be pulling prisons down, not building more’.

Everyone has worth and a capacity to change. That said, there are those that need intensive support, guidance and encouragement if they are to realize the often painful process of moving on in their lives. Holistic rehabilitation is an approach to life that considers the whole person, reinforcing the links between mind, body and spirit. It recognises that a whole is made up of interdependent parts - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual elements. What happens to one part has a direct impact upon the others. In parallel with this, an individual is constantly having to interact with everything else in his or her surrounding environment. To achieve maximum well-being and an integrative place within society, everything must function at its best. For offenders, this rarely if ever happens.

Well researched and documented evidence highlights the dangers associated with substance misuse and unprotected sexual activity etc. This, combined with lack of family support, poor education, inadequate nutrition, low self-esteem and a lack of positive self-belief often results in young people turning to the very things that keep them from realising their dreams and ambitions. Instead they become trapped in the cycle of drugs and crime, living on the streets, sofa surfing or in prison.

An holistic approach looks at the whole person and their lifestyle, guiding and empowering each individual towards achievable goals and outcomes, encouraging them to celebrate their life rather than lose it. It is an ongoing process which includes personal commitment, accepting responsibility for their actions, choices and overall personal well-being. Temporary setbacks should be viewed as just that, with positive reinforcement in the ability to achieve and succeed, with an acknowledgment that mistakes can and will be made and challenges overcome. There is also the need to promote the dignity and worth of individuals, the importance of human relationships, value, trust, respect and integrity.

In his speech 'Where next in Penal Reform' the Home Secretary emphasised the need to reduce re-offending and called for new and innovative partnerships with voluntary and private sector organisations. Many within the voluntary sector are already delivering innovative projects, regrettably, often with little meaningful support from statutory agencies. This is the nub of the issue. True Partnership work tends to be conspicuous by its absence. Many principles enshrined within the government's Compact are ignored.

The process of 'change' in any environment does not arise easily. As with offenders, change impacts upon people and organisations in different ways. It can cause stress and anxiety, a fear of working outside normal comfort zones, taking perceived risks and pursuing approaches that might reduce job security, power, control and budgets. The 2002 Social Exclusion Unit report on reducing re-offending by prisoners highlighted these issues. There are so many other agendas that actually have little to do with the real challenge of reducing re-offending and improving delivery of rehabilitation. This is the dilemma that we face. For change to be implemented and true partnerships to be developed, we need strong political vision that sets the agenda for change and then encourages, enables and empowers others to implement it.

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