Re-Unite Gloucestershire acquired safe and secure accommodation in the community for Lorraine while she was in prison, so that she was able to be re-united with her son on her release.

Lorraine's Story - Re-Unite project

I met Lorraine in September 2013 whilst delivering in-reach to HMP Eastwood Park. Lorraine was 19 years old and had been remanded in custody for her involvement in a gang related offence and she wasn’t due to be sentenced for another 6 months. When I met Lorraine she told me that she had a 3 year old son who she desperately missed. His name was Jack and he was staying with Lorraine’s mother temporarily whilst she was in prison.

Although Lorraine has several close family members, her teenage years were not without disruption. Lorraine’s Father was in and out of prison throughout her life and was therefore absent for most of her childhood. He was also very notorious and well known in Gloucestershire which made it difficult for Lorraine to steer away from association with this reputation. Although Lorraine did not get involved in drugs or petty crime as she did not want to follow the path of her Father she did become involved with some young people who were involved with a gang. Due to Lorraine’s vulnerability, she had quickly become affiliated with the gang and she was soon used by the gang as a ‘honeytrap’ which led to her offence.

Before going to prison Lorraine had lived in a 2 bedroom property in Gloucestershire with her son Jack which had been provided to her via a local Housing Association. Lorraine had waited a long time for this accommodation as she had spent time sofa surfing and in supported accommodation before Jack was born. Finally she had managed to secure a family home for her and her son. However, due to the nature of Lorraine’s offence, the Housing Association had evicted Lorraine and her son from the property and consequently they were both homeless. Lorraine was very worried that when she would be released from prison she wouldn’t be eligible for adequate housing for her son and would consequently struggle to get him back in her care. I talked to Lorraine about Re-unite Gloucestershire which is a project we offer that provides accommodation and support to mothers coming out of prison who have lost their accommodation so that they can be re-united with their children. Lorraine was very interested in this and we met regularly whilst she was in prison at EWP to make plans for her release.

Part of this preparation included contacting Lorraine’s mother so that she was completely involved with the process. This would ensure consistency for Jack when the time came for the reunification of Jack and his mother. Lorraine’s mother had been struggling financially to support Jack and had been forced to decrease her work hours to care for Jack causing further financial strain. We were able to support her with this and offer advice regarding benefits and further financial assistance and support.

Six months later, Lorriane was finally sentenced. She received a custodial sentence of 2 years and 3 months. Unfortunately, Lorraine was transferred to HMP Drake Hall which was 75 miles away meaning that she could no longer see her son. This was devastating for them both as they had always shared a close bond. We stayed in contact throughout this time until eventually Lorraine was transferred back to HMP Eastwood Park for local release. Lorraine was released after serving a year for good behaviour.

With support from ISIS, Lorraine managed to secure a 2 bedroom flat provided by Stonham Housing as part of Re-unite Gloucestershire which Lorraine and her son moved into after she was released. The property was provided furnished but we made applications for funding for kitchen equipment and a double bed and other items to make the property more homely as Lorraine had lost all of her belongings whilst in prison. Lorraine and I met frequently along with her link worker from Stonham to address any upcoming support needs. Together we ensured that Lorraine was in receipt of the correct benefits, emotional wellbeing courses and appropriate support such as access to Children’s centres for Jack.

Gradually Lorraine started to rebuild her life and prepare for the future she desired for herself and Jack. Lorriane was keen to start work when Jack was at nursery and she saw the Education and Training advisor at ISIS to complete a CV and research courses and employment opportunities. Lorraine felt that she wanted to ‘give back’ in the future and help other women who have been through similar situations so she enrolled on a Level 3 qualification in Peer Mentoring at ISIS in November 2014 which she is doing extremely well in.

Since release Lorraine has worked hard with ISIS and is able to reflect on her offending behaviour and her personal circumstances which contributed to this. Consequently, Lorraine has grown in confidence and has become a positive role model for her young son. Lorraine also became involved in offering peer support to other young mothers living in the Stonham accommodation and she is hoping to enrol on an apprenticeship scheme with Stonham in the future. Furthermore, Lorraine has also applied to become a volunteer at Gloucester Foodbank as she is extremely motivated to gain experience working with vulnerable individuals. Jack is currently doing well and is a very happy little boy who has recently started school which he loves. Together they are looking forward to a bright and fulfilling future together.