Independent charity Threshold was the partner chosen by Commonweal to launch a Re-Unite pilot service in Greater Manchester earlier this year. Jason McKenna, Community Based Services Manager at Threshold, tells us how his organisation’s local links are already helping to reunite families

Threshold is deploying the Re-Unite project in Greater ManchesterBuilding successful partnerships has been at the heart of Re-Unite’s success since its inception. Indeed, on setting up the programme in 2007, Commonweal Housing always understood the importance of finding organisations with strong roots in their local communities.

Five years on, this was a critical factor in the decision to build a relationship with Threshold, part of the New Charter Group, in Greater Manchester. The charity has a strong track record in delivering supported housing and other services to vulnerable people, and also has links with other local organisations that ensure its service delivery is truly holistic.

Launched in April 2012, Re-Unite Greater Manchester is currently working to reunite three women offenders with their children and is working with one other woman who is due to have her first child imminently. Having all served custodial sentences, all ran the risk of being prevented from being reunited with their children upon their release from prison unless they would be able to access key services, including housing.

“Threshold has a real advantage in terms of accessing suitable homes for families on the Re-Unite programme because we already have strong links with the social and private rented sector,” explains Jason McKenna, Community Based Services Manager at Threshold.

The Re-Unite programme fits well with the supported housing services Threshold already offers, including its well-established women’s services and women’s refuge.

“We currently access two programmes for women that are really relevant to those that may come to us through Re-Unite,” says McKenna. “The Finding me programme supports women to build confidence, improve life skills and work towards a more independent housing pathway journey. Meanwhile, the Building bridges programme is geared up to support individuals to enter volunteering, training and employment opportunities, and to develop their community networks.”

Elsewhere, Threshold also has close working relationships with a number of other local bodies and organisations. “Our Greater Manchester Offender Project, which focuses on both male and female short sentence prisoners, plus the strength of our partnership with the local probation service, and the added value of the women’s centre in Tameside, gives us really good scope to ensure the Re-Unite pilot in Greater Manchester will be a great success,” says McKenna.

He insists these relationships will help Re-Unite to meet the various needs of the women it is working with. “Housing pathways for women leaving prison, which provide a lifeline to reconnect them with their children really will limit the chance of reoffending. The holistic support pushes these women to change behaviours for the better, creating calmer and happier lifestyles for families, and resulting in savings to the public purse in the future.”

Initial start-up funding of £20,000 enabled the Threshold team to recruit a part-time support worker, a part-time administrator and a senior service worker to oversee the development of the project. “Re-Unite clearly shows how a relatively small investment can deliver huge positive change for vulnerable women. It is not about spending huge amounts of money, but rather about getting organisations to work together in certain ways,” McKenna says.