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Only Connect has developed a distinctive approach to tackling re-offending, based on our values of “Handshake not Handout"


One of the strategic aims of prison is rehabilitation, but the data shows that prisons fail to achieve this. The Ministry of Justice reports that the total estimated economic and social cost of reoffending over a 12-month period was £18.1 billion for the 2019 offender cohort. We want to address these failings and change the way we look at rehabilitation and reducing reoffending for ex-prisoners. OC is committed to disrupting this cycle.


Our typical beneficiaries are young men leaving prison who are at high risk of re-offending. Many enter the criminal justice system at a very young age, often rooted in backgrounds of neglect, poverty and exclusion. 82% of our beneficiaries are from BAME backgrounds, who, while constituting only 18% of the UK population, account for 51% of the youth in custody.

Bromley Briefings Prisons Factfile 2023 finds that 41% of prisoners have experienced domestic violence, and 24% have been taken into care. They have often struggled with substance misuse, untreated mental health issues, and have significant educational gaps— 42% have been expelled or excluded from school, and nearly half lack any qualifications.

 Upon release, ex-offenders typically encounter negative social influences such as gang affiliation and rivalry, peer pressure, troubled relationships, and the challenges of living in high-crime areas. They are also tasked with navigating potentially damaging prison experiences, inadequate post-release support and the lasting stigma of a criminal record. 




We start our “Through-the-Gate” programme about 12 weeks before release using a combination of one-to-one mentoring support (keyworking) and groupwork. Our keyworkers can draw keys in three prisons in London: Pentonville, Wormwood Scrubs and YOI Feltham. We are currently planning to expand to two other prisons: Isis and Belmarsh, who have invited us to join the resettlement team.


In prison, we run two courses: the first about relationships and attitudes towards money (Love & Money), and a second one, just before release, on employability, focusing on relationships with colleagues and employers (On Point). Our work continues in the community with one-to-one fortnightly sessions, aimed at supporting our members into good and sustainable jobs.


Our members use their time with us to reflect on the drivers and triggers behind their offences and the type of coping mechanisms that will provide motivation to avoid re-offending. During these sessions we also provide practical support with obtaining ID documents and producing effective CVs and disclosure letters. We want to go further than just processing ex-prisoners into work: we partner with local businesses to find training, placements and sustainable jobs that will endow people with purpose, societal value, money and pro-social friendships. 

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Our music programme centres on the development of project management skills through music production and the business of music. Members have the opportunity to write, record and perform musical pieces, gain music production tech skills, engage collaboratively with other artists and learn facets of music promotion and marketing.

We have developed three different music paths that our participant can choose from.


  •  Beats, Rhymes & the Biz Workshop 

This is a series of weekly group workshops of 36 hours designed around urban music production.  The workshops are led by Benjamin Digby, our Music Project Manager and assisted by, Timothy Titsworth our Music Production Volunteer/Co-ordinator. Attendees work collaboratively to create music while gaining skills both in music production and also in personal development.  

  • Cypher Project 

This is a 12 hour course which allows attendees to complete a music production project (two completed music compositions) in a guided learning environment, while developing valuable employability skills. Workshops are conducted in a small group or 1:1 sessions. These have been created to meet our member’s needs to be safe if they are gang affiliated and cannot interact with other young people on the course from rival gangs. 

  • One-to-one  Learning Session 

Through this course members are delivered a bespoke 12 hour course, working with an audio engineer/producer to create a completed project. The range of knowledge available includes audio and music production, LOGIC software instruction, DJ mixing, spoken word development, voice over and podcast production.  Workshops are conducted in a 1:1 format.



We now have three evaluation tools. For Love & Money we use a standard before-and-after scale looking at commitment, confidence, and relationship skills. For On Point, we have developed a scale based on employability self-efficacy. In each case, the After score is significantly increased. This indicates that the course participants are benefitting, at least in the short term. 


We also want to evaluate the keyworking, and particularly, to question whether we are having a longer term impact. To do this, we have set up a three stage, longitudinal evaluation. At each stage we ask the participants how they are doing in a number of important fields: mental health, motivation, managing money, relationships, use of time, attitudes to re-offending and job search. This is helping us analysing our members’ journey while with us and providing valuable feedback. We started collecting data in September 2022 and, so far, 63 members have completed all stages.  

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The initial analysis looks very promising: we found a significant increase in all aspects. However, the figures showed that we can do more over the topic of handling money so the keyworkers are now attending fortnightly trainings on the psychology of money to improve their ability to support people over financial issues.

We also collect education, training and employment (ETE) outcomes and monthly case studies. From September 2022 to August 2023, we worked with 444 people of whom 365 regularly engaged with their keyworker. Of the people who completed their journey with us (284), 33% went into education, training or employment. Overall, we had a total of 109 ETE outcomes: 56 training courses to obtain additional qualifications for work; 2 university enrolments; 49 job outcomes and 2 volunteering. 

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