As we come to the end of 2019, I look back over the last year with a great deal of pride.
We have achieved much. We have reduced reoffending. We have changed many people’s lives, and saved the government millions of pounds.
While the government was focused on Brexit, we focused on finding veterans in prison and helped them get back to a life that has some form of normality.
We have always said that 99.9% of all people leaving the Armed Forces have no trouble whatsoever with the transition from military to civilian life. However, there are small amount of poor souls who find it almost impossible. We deal with the ones the end up in prison.
There has been a lot of sabre rattling lately by government with regards to longer sentences and more people being sent to prison. There has been examples of people being let out of prison early or taking advantage of automatic release after 50% of their sentence has been served. We believe this is a bit daft. We also believe that a prison sentence of less than one year is pointless. Yes, it might serve as a deterrent, but one must ask oneself does it really? And, what else does it do? A one-year prison sentence usually means release in six months. What can you do in six months apart from mix with criminals?
The idea of prison is to punish, to deter, but most of all, and what we believe at Care after Combat, is, prison is a chance to rehabilitate and re-educate. You can’t do that in six months.
We start to mentor our prisoners when they have 12 months left to do on the service. It takes that long to get to know someone well enough and to plan the future.
We believe that the prison governors should have more of a say so when a prisoner should be released. Yes, it is possible to release a prisoner after 50% of his/her sentence, but they must earn that right and must convince people he/she is ready to be released. It should not be automatic, it should be earned.
We also believe that the Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence gives a prisoner no hope. And although this has now been scrapped there are still some people in prison who’s offence was committed before the IPP sentences were cancelled. They should be reviewed immediately. I’ve personally seen people on an IPP sentences. They have no hope, they have no future, they are lost.
We believe that people serving a sentence for serious crimes, serious sexual crimes, or terrorism offences should have a special review board. All of these people will be released sometime, but we need a belt and braces approach by experts including victims.
People should not be sent to prison if there is an alternative deterrent and punishment.
Our colleagues at Walking with the Wounded, and the Regular Forces Employment Agency, between them, have project Nova.
Led by the formidable Colin Back, Nova’s job is rather like that odd film that Tom Cruise was in. Do you remember? I think it was called the “Minority Report”. It is when Tom Cruise and his gang somehow had predicted when a serious crime was about to be committed and sped to the scene to prevent it. This is what Nova do. They take referrals from police stations, doctors and social workers. They get informed that a person has been arrested or is about to be arrested if he’s not careful. They then assign that person a Nova caseworker in an attempt to prevent a custodial sentence and to try and keep him from entering the criminal justice system.
It made sense to Colin and I to join forces. This is what we have done in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire and are working on a pathfinder. Basically an 18 month long dress rehearsal, to see if we can work together to provide a 360° service for the veteran in the criminal justice system or in danger of joining it. It is working a treat. Add to that the exceptional talents of the NHS led by Dr Jane Jones "the long-haired General in Newark" and we have a service that is second to none.
I’m very proud what this new collaboration is achieving.
Goose has become life President. He also has a vital role. He visits prisons regularly and talks to fellow veterans. He loves them and they love him... don’t you worry about that!
SAS TV stars Mark “Billy” Billingham MBE and big Phil Campion have also been a big help with identifying veterans in prison. They don’t have to do this, they’re busy people. But they are our friends and they care deeply for their brother veterans and we thank them.
Darren Ridge becomes Life Vice President. I would like this opportunity to thank him and Aaron Brown for their contribution. They know what it is... and how vital it is for us.
Our fundraising efforts are succeeding, with new partnerships. Domino's Pizza, Toby Carvery, and the Banana Wharf restaurants. Thank you chaps very much, we need every penny.
Our Summer Ball will be back at the Dorchester Hotel on 16th June 2020. Tickets are £300 pounds each. And VIP tables of 12 are £5,000. Book your tickets here https://cac.hive.gives/sb2020
I have a great interest in addictive personalities. Well, I would have wouldn't I.
Dr Nick Murdoch joined Care after Combat from the veterans outreach in Portsmouth. He was delivering an alcohol awareness program. We have now adapted that program and are delivering the package in prison.
The project is called Jigsaw... Picking up the pieces.
This ground breaking project is being delivered to veterans and their civilian friends that they share the prison with. The project last 48 weeks. it involves weekly lectures, forums, and one-to-one counselling. This is followed by 90 days of specialised mentoring upon release.
Nick and myself hope that someone in the government will give us a lump of money so we can open a veterans' alcohol and drug addiction and awareness Centre.
This year has seen Care after Combat employed full-time mentors as well as increase the number of volunteer mentors working for us and delivering a better future for our veterans.
Rob Nicholls in Wales delivers the goods as usual with his no nonsense Welsh flair and we look forward to the Welsh assembly taking notice!
Mandi Deakin joins us from SSAFA and becomes Executive Officer. She’s doing a great job and that has allowed me to step down as Chief Executive Officer and concentrate more on fundraising and awareness. This will happen in April and hopefully I’ll be re-joining the Board of Trustees... if they’ll have me.
Next year will be very exciting for Care after Combat. Our partnership with Nova will expand as will the Jigsaw project, expansion needs money, and that will be my job.
This might sound daft, but if someone gave me and Colin Back £6 million a year we could save the government £250 million, by reducing reoffending and preventing custodial sentences and most of all providing a steady platform for the veteran and his family to move on into civilian life without fear of failure.
I would like to thank my board of trustees. Chairman Cmdr. Stephen Anderson OBE, David Rogers, Chris Davis and newcomers The RT Hon Caroline Noakes MP and Brian Mair.
I wish you all Merry Christmas... or I should say Happy Holidays.
Love life, fear God