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Dartington LandWorks

LandWorks

What is LandWorks?

Dartington LandWorks is a new work-based training scheme designed to support current and ex-prisoners to help put crime behind them. It is based on the Dartington Hall Estate and the aim is that LandWorks will provide a supported route for offenders from prison back into community and employment

Chris Parsons at the LandWorks project

Whilst LandWorks is based around landscape construction and other land-based activities, the aim is to provide trainees with transferable skills that would benefit a range of different types of employment. For example, LandWorks equips trainees with the social and employability skills that will lead to success in stopping offending. Trainees are involved in a full working day while on the LandWorks scheme.

LandWorks encourages responsibility, team-building, increasing self-belief and confidence by being involved in a positive and non-judgemental workplace. Alongside the main training and work experience programme, LandWorks involves the following elements:

  • running a communal lunch where trainees and guests come together to share a meal and exchange ideas and experiences

  • creating a LandWorks garden at Dartington, providing a visible legacy from trainees’ involvement in the scheme and, by making the garden open to the public, help with the work to improve public attitudes to offending and gain support for the scheme (read how the garden is shaping up here.
  • giving access to the extensive opportunities offered on the Dartington estate – from the businesses that work on the estate through to the wide range of cultural, charitable and commercial activities undertaken by Dartington
  • involving volunteers on LandWorks to provide a more mixed and realistic team mix; and to act as mentors for trainees once they move into mainstream employment

By the end of involvement in the programme, the aim is that LandWorks trainees should feel more confident about being able to play a positive role in society, have obtained skills to help find and keep a job, leave with a reference, and, importantly, have felt part of a supportive local community.

The current position

We are running LandWorks in two phases. Since July 2013, we have been running Phase 1.

Phase 1 – testing and development

This involves a small team of trainees, mainly on day-release from HMP Channings Wood, using temporary facilities at our training base on the Dartington Hall estate. We expect to run this phase of the scheme for 9-12 months, and it is proving to be an invaluable way of testing the project and building the relationships to make sure it is as effective as possible.

Phase 2 – the full scheme

We hope to begin this phase later this year, where we plan to expand to involve more trainees and begin building a more permanent training centre. Ideally, trainees will join LandWorks while in prison and continue their involvement immediately after release. This provides invaluable support during the difficult transition between prison and community. We will also keep some places available for trainees who are already released. We will then take on more staff to run it – we recognise the importance of having a relatively high ratio between staff and trainees on the scheme.

Why is LandWorks needed?

Reoffending rates are notoriously high in England and Wales. Ministry of Justice statistics show that almost half of adults with a custodial conviction reoffend within a year. With three local prisons in Devon, the social and economic impacts of reoffending are as much an issue for this region as anywhere else in the UK.
Research shows a strong link between employment and likelihood of reoffending.

However, it is incredibly difficult for ex-prisoners to secure and sustain employment upon release – either because employers are reluctant to hire them or because they lack skills and experience – which can make it easy to slip back into old habits. LandWorks aims to change this.

Research also suggests that it’s more than just about securing employment. Helping ex-prisoners to build and develop a range of new relationships, life skills and social responsibilities makes reoffending less likely.

Recognising this, the core beliefs of Dartington LandWorks can be summarised as follows:

  • Reducing re-offending costs society less: all of our communities need offenders to be equipped with the skills and confidence to lead a fulfilling and crime free life
  • As well as gaining work skills offenders need to be supported in a number of areas including life and social skills
  • Providing offenders with opportunities to contribute meaningfully to society can be a catalyst for changing social attitudes towards offenders, breaking down the social barriers which so often cause them to be caught in a cycle of crime

We have a very strong and committed team working on LandWorks. Chris Parsons, LandWorks Manager, brings 20 years of experience running Greenlands, a landscape business, and years of working with ex-offenders and those with drug and alcohol misuse problems. And we have had tremendous support and engagement from our local community (including local residents and employers) – this is vital if the aspiration of a settled, contributing life is to be achieved.

Getting involved

We have some brilliant volunteers working with our trainees at the moment and they’ve got lots of enthusiasm, skills and support to offer. But we’re always looking for more people to get involved, particularly those with specialist skills in cooking, horticulture, website and database management.

Dartington LandWorks relies on the dedication of our volunteers, supporters and partners. So, if you have any comments, questions, would like to volunteer, make a donation or get involved in any other way, please do get in touch.
You can do this by clicking the link below, by emailing landworks@dartington.org
or by giving us a call on 01803 847289.

Support Dartington LandWorks – register your interest…

Our Vision: We work in partnership with others to deliver change in three areas: Registered charity number: 279756