Monday, December 31, 2007


Whilst 'Basic Skills' are undoubtedly important, acquiring them is not what makes the difference in reducing re-offending. Rather, learning to master the tough ‘soft’ skills is what reduces re-offending. It is a massive journey of attitudinal change, both for offenders and often those working with them.

When you have never experienced it before, this type of reflective, emotional and experiential learning is extremely tough and well outside the average offender's comfort zone. It is not simply a transfer of skills, rather a journey that encompasses personal growth, the leaning of new values, self-belief, self-esteem, self-efficacy, emotional maturity, confidence, respect and integrity. Encouraging offenders to value themselves, helping them to feel empowered, recognising their strengths and talents, motivating them and encouraging them to fulfill their goals and achieve their own unique potential, this is what makes the difference - Develop the person first - the rest will follow. To support someone on such a journey requires a wide range of skills.

Of note, the majority of offenders that we have worked with described how professionals with such responsibility generally failed to show them any respect or understanding. Many went on to suggest that most professionals were unwilling to listen to their point of view and had other agendas that tended to have little to do with the offender's thoughts or needs. These agendas were often associated with ‘control’ and ‘management targets’. Critically, there was a lack of understanding in respect of the ‘tough’ soft skills alluded to earlier. Until these issues are addressed, any meaningful relationship between offender and professional will be limited.

Against this background, I have been attempting to identify the type and level of training being given to those responsible for effective work with offenders and other marginalised groups. It is with some disquiet that I have had little success. Most appears to be focused upon legal issues, management procedures and rules. Whilst there are numerous articles and reports describing the content of 'what works' programmes, little emphasis would appear to be placed upon the interpersonal skills, relationships and attitudes needed to deliver such programmes effectively or to provide ongoing support.

I would very much like to hear from anybody working with offenders, long-term unemployed and other marginalised groups regarding their professional training and continuing personal development (CPD), particularly regarding what, if anything, they feel is missing.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Life Change UK's innovative training earns high praise from participants

With the Government's continued emphasis upon promoting learning and access to work by marginalised groups of our society, the development of associated staff training has become increasingly relevant and important. Recent delivery of training by Life Change UK to staff working with and supporting difficult learners, long-term unemployed people and ex-offenders has earned high praise from those who have undertaken the training. Feedback can be seen at .

Of note are the comments relating to improved understanding, communication skills, boundaries and staff team work, all of which are essential if education, learning, access to work and an improvement in the reduction in re-offending rates are to be achieved. In reality, targets can only be met if staff have the confidence and knowledge to deal with the 'tough' soft skills that such work demands. Until these are understood and staff are given the training and associated support to work more effectively, limited progress will be made.

With pilot funding from the LSC and support by Devon and Cornwall Training Providers Network and Enterprise Plymouth, the unique training is clearly delivering important skills that many organisations believe their staff will benefit from.

Courses in 2008 can be see at

Friday, September 28, 2007

Life Change UK delivers its innovative 'Train the Trainer' programme

With higher re-offending rates and an increasing prison population, there is growing recognition that punishment, by itself, does not work. Equally, despite efforts to to do so, the delivery of education, learning and support to offenders and other de-motivated people is not as effective as it needs to be. One of the major weaknesses is the lack of training and understanding by those required to work with such groups.

Borne out of considerable experience in working with young adult persistent male offenders and young people with special educational and motivational needs, the Life Change UK programme ‘Managing Attitudinal Change and Challenging Behaviour’ is designed specifically to assist others working with challenging behaviour to do so more effectively. Having delivered the programme to individuals from various organisations, Life Change UK has already earned praise for the benefits and skills that it provided.

Importantly, the programme provides increased understanding of the soft skills and key issues involved. Through the provision of various practical communication tools the training improves levels of interpersonal communication, increases self-confidence, reduces stress and enhances outcomes. The training is ideal for teachers, prison and probation officers, youth justice and social workers, parents and foster parents and those working in the private and voluntary sectors where challenging behaviour and motivation is an issue. The complete programme consists of nine units delivered over 5 days; however, bespoke shorter packages can be tailored to meet the specific needs of recipients.

Validated by the University of Plymouth for possible use within its new teaching courses, the LSC has recently provided early funding for the delivery of a pilot course for staff from different training organisations in Devon and Cornwall, all of whom work with offenders, ex-offenders and long-term unemployed people. Requests for other training has also been received.

By the end of January 2008 a basic Induction and Foundation course will be available on-line for those working within the associated sectors. It is planned that this will subsequently be developed to levels 2 - 4 for use within the revised teaching qualifications.

Anyone interested in this training is encouraged to look at the Life Change UK web site - and to contact us.

Friday, July 13, 2007

"In the News" by Karen Franklin, Ph.D.: New book on offender rehabilitation

Hi Karen,

I was interested to see your promotion of the new book by Shadd Maruna and Tony Ward dealing with the rehabilitation of offenders. It is indeed the human and social needs that must be targetted and addressed. Punishement by itself merely re-affirms past failings. You might like to look at our web site and our linked blog. There you will see our experience for such work here in the UK. Good luck with your efforts.

Kind regards,

Trevor Philpott

Sunday, July 08, 2007



I have just returned from a 4 day trip to the Isle of Skye in Scotland with my girlfriend. We arrived about 11pm and although it was drizzling and cloudy I could not believe how light it still was. We pitched our tent and quickly fell asleep. When we awoke in the morning the view from our tent was one of the most beautiful I have ever been lucky enough to experience. The loch that stretched out to the sea was glistening like a mirror in the morning sunshine with the sound of seagulls calling. The wild, rocky mountains shot up towards the sky, their jagged summits just hidden from view by the few remaining clouds that scattered the otherwise blue sky, slowly being carried away by the stiff sea breeze. Skye is truly a magical place and I felt privileged to be their.

That view from our tent in Skye was a far cry from my life 5 years ago. I was due to
be released from prison after serving a sentence for numerous burglaries committed to fund a serious drug addiction. I had no home to return to, my family ties had all but broken down. I had very few personal possessions and even less of an idea about where my chaotic lifestyle would be heading next.

Fortunately, during my time in prison a friend had told me of a charity called C-FAR. He said that after a tough residential training course they helped ex-offenders to find accommodation and a job so you could start a new life. This sounded like it would be worth a try so I applied for the course and was accepted. However, I found a lot more than a job and accommodation during my time at the Centre.

The staff were friendly and trusting, always went the extra mile to help and never wrote anyone off. I still have the rock climbing magazines that a member of staff brought in and gave to me and from time to time I still pore over the same inspiring photos. It was these images that triggered my passion for climbing and reminded me of the power of wild, mountainous environments that I had experienced as a child during school trips.

During the course we undertook all sorts of lessons including basic skills and group sessions dealing with our offending, anger management and drug addictions. I also remember we spent 3 long, sunny days clearing and tidying a local village park that had become overgrown. It was hard work but we all had a great time, working together and enjoying the banter. It was nice to be able to give something back to a community; the end result was fantastic and it felt extremely satisfying.

Towards the end of the course a member of staff asked me “if I could do anything when I left C-FAR what would it be”. So I told them and received all the help and support that I needed to make it happen. I went to Bicton College in Devon to study outdoor education, something I thought would never happen. Fortunately, I ended up getting good enough marks to move on to a degree course in the Lake District run through the University of Lancaster.

Looking back to that time I recall that on leaving C-FAR and prior to my starting at college, things did not go completely smoothly. As I now know, life rarely does. However the things I had learnt during the programme, the support I received afterwards and the determination of people not to give up on me saw me though those bad times. As a result I learned more about myself, others and the world in general and have been able to apply that to my life today. For that I will always be grateful.

I currently work as an assistant manager in an outdoor activities clothing and equipment shop. I spend most of my free time rock climbing and running on the fells, enjoying the beautiful environment I now live in. I have travelled to many other places in the UK and Europe and intend to visit many others. This plays a large part in how I now choose to live my life and I enjoy every minute of it.

One thing I am certain of, things would not be the same if it had not been for C-FAR, and I know that there are many others that would say the same. C-FAR gave me a chance to break the vicious circle that my life, and others like me, became embroiled in. It gave me the chance to recognise my strengths and increase my confidence and sense of personal belief. Without this, I suspect that I would now be back in prison or worse still, possibly dead. As I experienced the breathtaking view outside our tent on Skye, I reflected how fortunate I was.

If the government is really serious about its efforts to reduce re-offending and substance misuse, then programmes such as that delivered by C-FAR should be supported across the country. Unfortunately, because of a lack of funding, in April 2005 C-FAR was placed into voluntary liquidation. Had the prison population been over 80,000 in 2005 I suspect that there would have been different outcome.

The Prime Minister has said that he intends to employ people “who can contribute their energies in a new spirit of public service”. Again, if he is serious about this, I hope that he will contact Trevor Philpott and his colleagues who ran C-FAR and are still working hard to help reduce re-offending. They have the spirit and the knowledge.

Good luck to all ex-offenders. Life can be good if you want it enough.

Chris Stirling

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Respecting Young People

The issue of respect by young people and the need for good parenting has been strongly promoted as an essential ingredient for reducing re-offending. Sadly, adults and parents often have difficulty recalling their own fears and weaknesses as children and teenagers. The following poem is perhaps worth more than a moment’s reflection.

To My Parents
by Helena Bailey

Don’t spoil me; I know well that I ought not to have all that I ask for. I’m only testing you.

Don’t be afraid to be firm with me, I prefer it. It makes me feel more secure.

Don’t let me form bad habits. I have to rely on you to detect them at early stages.

Don’t make me feel smaller than I am. It only makes me behave stupidly ‘big’.

Don’t correct me in front of people if you can help it.
I’ll take much more notice if you talk quietly with me in private.

Don’t make me feel my mistakes are sins. It upsets my sense of values.

Don’t protect me from consequences. I need to learn the painful way sometimes.

Don’t be upset when I say “I hate you”. It isn’t you I hate but your power to thwart me.

Don’t take too much notice of my small ailments. Sometimes they get the attention I need.

Don’t nag. If you do, I shall have to protect myself by appearing to be deaf.

Don’t forget that I cannot explain myself as well as I should like. That is why I am not always accurate.

Don’t make rash promises. Remember that I feel badly let down when promises are broken.

Don’t take my honesty too much. I am easily frightened into telling lies.

Don’t be inconsistent. That confuses me and makes me lose faith in you.

Don’t tell me my fears are silly.
They are terribly real and you can do much to reassure me if you try to understand.

Don’t put me off when I ask questions.
If you do, you will find that I stop asking and seek information elsewhere.

Don’t ever think it is beneath your dignity to apologise to me.
An honest apology makes me feel surprisingly warm towards you.

Don’t ever suggest that you are perfect or infallible.
It gives me too great a shock when I discover you are neither.

Don’t forget how quickly I am growing up. It must be difficult to keep pace with me. But please try.

Don’t forget I love experimenting. I couldn’t get on without it. So please put up with it.

Don’t forget I can’t thrive without lots of understanding love.

Take care of yourself. I need you to be around for along time please.

Sent in by Graham Ledger - Love2grow

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Alternatives to Custody - Tackling Attitudinal Thinking and Change

How refreshing it was to hear Lucie Russell from Smart Justice speaking on the BBC's World at One today, describing how prison is not working and that we need to address the causes of shoplifting and the wider issues of re-offending by dealing with the attitudinal thinking of offenders. If Dr Reid and the CJS were to increase the delivery of such programmes, re-offending rates would fall away significantly.

Importantly however, many of those working with offenders do themselves need additional training to enable them to do so more effectively. Without this, little will change. Investment in such training will reap rich rewards. The Life Change UK Training programme is specifically designed to assist with this requirement.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Role of Faith Groups in Youth Justice

Hi Andy,

Thank you for your question which I have published. Hopefully anyone who can help will respond.

I regret that I was not able to identify your email address on your blog. If you send to me at - I will pass any contacts that arise.

Good luck, Trevor

The Role of Faith Groups in Youth Justice

Andy said...

Hi, I work in the Youth Justice System (YOT manager and now seconded to the YJB) and am also doing a Doctorate entitled, 'Can we have Faith in Youth Justice? - Examining the role of Faith Communities in the Youth Justice System'.

I'd be interested in finding out whether any readers of this blog know of any single or multi faith groups involved at any level within the Youth Justice System. My email address is on my blog...

Wednesday, 16 May, 2007

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

From Kirstie

Kirstie said...

Hi, I think all the work your doing is great. I myself have not had an easy life. I am now in my 3rd year at university studying design for interactive media. The aim for my personal project is to use technology to teach teens with adhd the consequences of their actions. I plan to creat an interactive dvd. The format will be a video clip and then a multiple choice which will determine which scene gets played next. This process would be iterated until the player reaches one of the endings. The player is constantly making choices which will take them on different paths. drinking, drugs, anger management, youth offenders, expelled from school. I am hoping this will help them to understand it is the choices that they make that leads them into trouble and that there are other options. In the future I would like to do this in a live project working with young offenders and involving them in the production of a game based on their own experiences.

If you or anyone reading this blog has any literature or knowledge that you think may help me with my research project please email me on

Could you please send me further details of the work you do and your future plans. Thank you

Friday, 23 March, 2007

Practical Strategies in the classroom to reduce bad behaviour

At long last the idea that reward rather than punishment is the more effective way to reduce disruption in the classroom.

By deploying this approach the Garibaldi School has only excluded two pupils in eight years and has successfully managed to reinstate over 40 youngsters from other schools during the same period. Such success must surely be recognised and the strategies copied elsewhere.

Whilst always acknowledging that inappropriate and antisocial behaviour must involve consequences that include some form of penalty, the key is surely to promote an environment where such behaviour is discouraged in the first place. If the Garibaldi School and many other like minded establishments can demonstrate such positive outcomes, why can we not deploy the same philosophy in the rehabilitation of our young offenders?

Such an approach will always produce a reduction in re-offending rates by young people far more quickly and effectively than simply more punitive punishment and calls for retribution. Reward and success serve to address the underlying causes of bad behaviour, namely a lack of values and sense of self-worth. Until these are taught and promoted, the thinking and the behaviour will remain unchanged with many more young people falling further into a life of serious crime from which there is unlikely to be any positive outcome. Punishment by itself does not teach such values. Rather it reaffirms the negative thinking that caused the behaviour in the first place.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Thank you for your encouragement and well done with your good work.

If you have not yet done so, you might like to look at our web site - . There you will see further background information and an outline of our new staff training programme aimed at those working with offenders. Please email me if you have any questions.

Regards, Trevor

Encouragement from the USA

I've appreciated browsing your blog. I am a Probation Officer supervising juvenile offenders in the State of Illinois...keep up the good work...
# posted by Anonymous : Wednesday, 07 March, 2007

Monday, February 19, 2007

'If a Child' – Reflections for Society

Regrettably I do not know who wrote the following. Whoever it was has provided much for society to reflect upon in how it adddresses the challenges of reducing future re-offending, gang warfare and the wasting of many young people's lives!

'if a child lives with criticism
it learns to condemn'

'if a child lives with hostility
it learns to fight'

'if a child lives with ridicule
it learns to be shy'

'if a child lives with shame
it learns to be guilty'

'if a child lives with tolerance
it learns to be patient'

'if a child lives with encouragement
it learns confidence'

'if a child lives with praise
it learns to appreciate'

'if a child lives with fairness
it learns justice'

'if a child lives with security
it learns to have faith '

'if a child lives with approval
it learns to like itself'

'if a child lives with acceptance and friendship
it learns to find love in the world'

Thursday, February 15, 2007


UNICEF says ‘Britain’s children are the unhappiest in the West. What a shameful and sad indictment this is.

I’ve watched them fall asleep in classroom environments. I have seen them head in hand muttering under their breath. I have observed their yawning and sighs of frustration and I have listened to (and been part of) the discussions about their lack of motivation and respect. I have heard comments such as ‘It’s a waste of time trying to teach them anything’, or ‘I don’t know why I bother, they don’t listen. On occasions I too have joined the ranks of facilitators and teachers that have despaired of ever getting young people in my lessons / sessions to participate.

Yet so many of today’s young people are apprehensive and at times openly hostile about traditional classroom settings and learning. Their memories are often of personal failure and control by adults unwilling to listen, support or encourage them in their journey. Why is this? We all start life with a love to learn, a desire that overrides our inhibitions; we take risks and want to try everything. We have a natural curiosity to explore new things, we want to experience all; we are naturally motivated to learn.

Being told several times that ‘you are a failure and won’t amount to much’ and other such negative messages is a contributory factor, it creates the self fulfilling prophecy we hear so much about. Individuals rapidly develop low self-esteem and sense of self-worth. This does more harm to a developing young person than anything I know.

Lacking confidence and personal belief they are often struggling with issues surrounding family and identity. They worry about ‘fitting in’ and meeting the ‘acceptable’ criteria that will ensure they are one of the ‘in crowd’. Issues surrounding sexuality, relationships and money are high in the order of personal stress. When recognising what is going on for them socially, emotionally, physically and spiritually, it is not surprising that many do not view learning and conforming as pivotal to their existence.

Despite knowing that these problems exist, how easy it is for adults to blame and label them as difficult, unmotivated and lacking determination, commitment and respect. Yet, as we all too often see, poor and inappropriate role modelling by many adults in our society exacerbates the confusion.

One is left asking whether or not it is the young people who are unwilling to learn, or whether adults simply fail to understand. As teenagers, many adults were themselves given and have subsequently accepted the label of ‘failure’. They too struggle to cope and escape personnel feelings of inadequacy.

Young people are no different. They simply want to be treated like human beings, be respected and feel as if they matter; while they are happy to be challenged, they don’t want to be ridiculed or made to feel inferior or ashamed.

As Educators / Mentors / Teachers / Facilitators / Coaches / Parents we need to inflame their enthusiasm, find their passion and be interested in them as people. We need to listen to them, hear them, give them the opportunity to have their questions answered and talk with them, not at them. These are all important elements of developing reparative relationships that are built on trust, congruence, respect and empathy. This way we can nurture and maintain motivation, but there is one essential ingredient –

'To be motivated ourselves'

“Give a person an idea and you enrich their life. Teach a person how to learn and they can enrich their own lives" – Author Unknown

Theresa Owens
Director of Training
Life Change UK

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travel Fellowship - Reducing Youth Crime in Eastern Europe and Chile

Last Autumn I was fortunate to have undertaken a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travel Fellowship. I visited 6 countries (Estonia, Hungary, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Chile). My aim was to briefly research issues surrounding the socio economic situation in each country, its impact upon youth crime and what each Government was attempting to do to reduce re-offending.

The full report can be seen on our Reports and Evaluations page on . It consists of an Executive summary and 6 seperate annexes, one for each country. I particularly draw your attention to some innovative work in Slovenia and the drive to promote Restorative Justice in Ukraine.

Do let me know if you have any questions.

Trevor Philpott

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Reducing the Prison Population and Re-offending by Increasing Third Sector Capacity

Over the last weeks there has been increasing recognition by Ministers and professional commentators that only the most dangerous and persistent offenders should be sent to prison and that for the less dangerous, community sentences should be used. As part of that debate, it has been widely acknowledged that current overcrowding is severly inhibiting any potential to deliver meaningful rehabilitation and reduction in re-offending.

Clearly the ongoing prison crises will not be resolved quickly. The opening of old prison wings and the construction of new will take time and vast sums of money. Similarly, the Probation Service is already struggling to meet its existing workload, let alone take on more communuity offender programmes and additional levels of supervision and support. Even with more investment in the Probation Service, recruitment and training of staff will take time.

The challenge is - what else can be done?

Over the last two years the Government and opposition parties have increasingly recognised the excellent work undertaken with offenders by voluntary organisations. Equally all have promoted the need to engage the Third Sector to support the delivery of Public Sector services. Sadly, whilst some additional money has been made available, the majority of voluntary organisations struggle to raise sufficient revenue to survive and are still very much dependent upon the general public for charitable donations and grants from major Trusts.

Importantly, numerous voluntary sector organisations already exist throughout the country and are delivering what Ministers say is required. Most are champing at the bit to expand and do more; all they need is the encouragement and funding to do so. If the Government is serious about promoting partnership work and delivery with the Third Sector, here is a wonderful opportunity to prove it.

Rather than repeating past mistakes and relying on prison as the primary means of reducing re-offending, let us make a real 'step change' by significantly and rapidly increasing the capacity of the those Third Sector organisation already delivering excellent work with offenders? It would both enable a quick response to the requirement to reduce the prison population and re-offending as well as setting in motion the concept of change and the delivery of public services through meaningful partnership work.

Had such investment and support been forthcoming with our work at C-FAR (see our web site), we would still be operational with more than 100 young men undertaking a programme of rehabilitation in the one community centre each year. With further support that project could have been replicated elsewhere, delivering exactly what the Home Secretary is now suggesting is required. Many other voluntary organisations are delivering similar excellent work, all of which is greatly appreciated by both offenders and the public alike. Let us now take advantage of the current crises and instigate the change that is so desperately needed.

'If we keep doing the same things we must surely expect to see the same outcomes!'

Trevor Philpott

Friday, January 26, 2007

Where next in Youth Justice?

On the back of the current crises within our Criminal Justice System it was with some deep sadness that we heard today of the resignation of Professor Rod Morgan as Chairman of the Youth Justice Board (YJB).

Since taking over the YJB his efforts to deliver a much needed agenda of reform for work with young offenders has earned enormous respect. Although still lacking in the levels of investment needed, the approaches and philosphy that he and his Board have been promoting are undoubtedly the way ahead in helping to reduce youth crime, re-offending and further social exclusion.

Rather than blaming, demonising and incarcerating our young people, there is an urgent and fundamental requirement for the adult population to take responsibility and to reflect and consider why it is that so many of our young people behave as they do. The society that we all live in provides the environment in which they grow up and learn. It is surely therefore our failures and our role modelling and attiudes that are causing so much of what is going wrong. Yet all we do is blame and punish the young. Is it any wonder that so many young people tend to lack respect for the adult population when we have let them down so badly.

The greatest motivators in life are success and reward, not fear and failure. The evidence clearly shows that punishment and custody alone do not work. If it did, re-offending rates would be falling. Rather, we need to focus upon and address the deep rooted negative thinking, insecurities, fears and attitudes that all too often prevail.

So many of those that end up within the criminal justice system lack the most basic levels of personal confidence, self-esteem, sense of self-worth and social skills. Yet these are essential in our our lives. Only when these basic issues are recognised and addressed will we see a reduction in crime. More punishment on top of previous punishment merely reaffirm previous failure. Crtically, we need to give those working with young people the skills and confidence to do so.

We can only hope that Rod Morgan's successor is able and willing to drive the YJB agenda forward and that Rod will find alternative ways of continuing to use his considerable knowledge and skills to assist the process.

Trevor Philpott

Friday, January 05, 2007

Former C-FAR Trainee, Craig Reece, reports his continuing progress

Hello, my name is Craig Reece. For those of you that haven’t read about me on the Feedback page of the Life Change UK web site , I am a 24 years old ex-offender who successfully completed the late C-FAR programme in Devon. I am proud to say that mainly because of that I am now getting a new life.

From my previous letter you will see that I was successful in my application to join the Army. My training started on 14th August 2006 and I completed the 14-week initial training on 17th November. This was by no means an easy course. The training was very intense and demanding, especially in physical fitness. I am pleased to say that I kept my standards high and completed what the Army call CMS (R) with good reports. This I couldn’t have done without many of the subjects and skills I was taught at C-FAR which, incidentally, I no longer have to remind myself of as they now come easily and are part of my every day life and thinking.

I look back and cannot believe the change in myself and my lifestyle. It is hard to believe that two years ago I was sat in prison waiting for release with no prospects and no future. Now, thanks to C-FAR I am a happy person, holding down a secure job with a secure future and I am working hard to catch up on the years I lost through my criminal activity.

Recently I spent a weekend in Belgium on a Battlefield tour which I really enjoyed learning about. In January I am due to go skiing for a week in Italy with the possibility of entering the Army Championships later in the year.

I am also about to undertake my cat C and E driver training after which I will be posted into the Field Army. From there I intend to complete the ’P’ Company Parachute Course and then the Royal Marines All Arms Commando Course. Although these are recognised as amongst the two most physically tough courses in the British services, I am determined to complete them. None of this would have been possible had it not been for what I learned at C-FAR and my thanks go to all the staff who encouraged and supported me there.

It is that type of course that ex-offenders need so that they can change our lives. I only wish that the Government would understand this and listen to people like me. Hopefully they will in the future.


Craig Reece.