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Making a difference through the Pathfinder scheme

In her latest blog, PCC Alison Hernandez tells the story of an individual who entered into the new scheme and the changes it has made to their life.

This week I want to use this blog to tell you about Tom.

Tom was one of the first people to enter the new Pathfinder deferred charging scheme, a pilot project, funded through my office and the Home Office, which challenges and changes the behaviour of first time offenders.

The Pathfinder pilot builds upon similar schemes such as the successful Checkpoint scheme in Durham. Under the scheme first time offenders agree to sign up to a contract and work with a keyworker to address some of the underlying issues that may have led to their offending.  If they engage with the programme and take the agreed actions they will not receive a criminal charge.

Where our pilot differs from Durham is that I have insisted it is victim lead – if the victim of a crime does not agree that use of the pilot is appropriate then it won’t happen.

It isn’t about saving money (though any action you can take to keep people become repeat offenders will have a positive financial benefit) it is about improving outcomes for individuals and for our communities as a whole. It allows individuals to have better, more fulfilling, positive lives and to reduce the likelihood of them offending again in the future.

This is not a soft option as those who join the scheme must engage with the process, often confronting difficult and challenging facets of their lives. They will work with their Pathfinder keyworker to identify their own needs and they are then supported to find ways to address them and stop them causing more harm to themselves and others

So back to Tom.

Tom is 24, he has mild learning disabilities, epilepsy and some physical issues that cause him to have an awkward gait. He can’t work because his epilepsy isn’t under control.

Tom was arrested under the Communications Act after he made verbal threats over the phone to a man he felt had been bullying his friend.

Tom did have a previous offending history but it was historical and for minor offences. He was offered the Pathfinder scheme in the place of a simple caution and accepted.

After the first meeting with his key worker Tom said that sometimes he had social interaction issues and reacted badly to some stressful or confrontational situations.

He said he would like help with coping in those confrontational situations, which he says stemmed from being bullied throughout his life because of his disability.

He also spoke about being bored because he couldn’t work and, because the few friends he has work, he found it difficult to motivate himself throughout the day.

Housing was another factor. He wanted to live closer to his family on the other side of town to help manage his anxiety.

There were also issues with his money while on benefits and a small amount of debt.

Seen in isolation each of these things should have been manageable but, together, they were a toxic mix which ended with Tom being arrested.

But over the next few meetings Tom started to talk about how he would like to positively change his life and focus on what he could do.

He said he had always wanted to become a football coach, but because of his disability, and the fact that others had told him he couldn’t achieve this, he had never explored further.

That gave the keyworker a real starting point to help Tom change his life. He is now halfway through his Pathfinder contract and feels much more able to cope with stressful situations calmly and without raising his anxiety levels.

Regular appointments with his GP have resulted in his medication been changed and his epileptic episodes are now infrequent and less severe.

With help he has had meaningful discussions with his housing manager and explained that his living arrangements are detrimental to his health and, after paying off some outstanding housing arears, it looks hopeful he will be able to rent a property nearer to his family.

And finally, as part of the Pathfinder contract Tom has to give something back to the community so the key worker helped him to get some mentoring to help him be more positive.  Tom enrolled with a training provider and he has now joined a scheme called Empowering Enterprise, which targets 18 to 24 year olds with a view to giving them the skills, attitudes and education to obtain employment. He will also join a complementary programme run by the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, a mentoring scheme where he will work with a professional Paralympian.

The keyworker has also linked Tom into Exeter City’s Football in the Community and it was agreed that he could volunteer as a coach for the club’s 12 Ability Counts teams on a trial basis. Tom was especially excited to engage with this as this was a lifelong ambition for him, he has now attended his first session as a volunteer and the feedback from his mentor was extremely positive.

Tom has engaged very well with the Pathfinder scheme and says it is the best thing that could have happened for him.

Prior to Pathfinder he would have been given a caution and would have been left alone to navigate his way out of the situation he had found himself.

I will leave you all to draw your own opinion which of these two outcomes is the best outcome for Tom as an individual and society as a whole – but I know which I believe to be the best.

Alison Hernandez