Ben Moloney, one of our Housing & Employability Coordinators, explains his role – building trust, rewiring brains, and earning his ‘bonus’:
“When I introduce myself to the lads in prison, I explain that a Housing & Employability Coordinator is really just a posh name for a Key Worker. My job is to support them with whatever they need to get their life back on track – housing, work, having someone they can really talk to… it’s anything and everything they need.
“It’s easy to say no two days are the same but in this job the days really are varied…
“I have a skeleton structure to my work but it always fits around each individual’s needs. There’s admin involved – collecting and processing information, talking to probation and working with colleagues to get people signed up to programmes or for employment. Then I could be writing a CV for someone, or setting up an email account. And some days, my job could also include explaining to someone how to do their own washing!
“My favourite days are the prison days, visiting the lads to see where they’re up to and what the next steps are to help them on their way.
“When I first meet with them, most are very skeptical about what we’re offering them or why we’re doing it. A lot of these lads have grown up with people not delivering for them. So when they’ve got me – a younger lad, a stranger really – offering them this help, why would they believe that when, often, their own parents rarely gave them the time of day?
“We recently did a Trauma Informed Care course which really showed just how much we can help people. When you’re a child your brain is building up links from experiences – between actions and behaviours, and results or rewards. These form who are you. By being supportive, our work can literally rewire someone’s brain. It’s all about consistency.
“On my first visit I’ll introduce myself and the programme, and explain that I’m here to support them, and start to develop that trust. We’ll work out together what they need and what they want. I then start to see them regularly, usually every fortnight, around three months before they’re due for release. That’s when we really drill into making plans for housing, work or training opportunities, or support services.
“On the day they’re released I always check in with them. Sometimes I’m the person to pick them up at the gates. It’s a big day and there’s a lot to take in so it’s important to check in and maintain that strong connection.
“The last year has shown us just how important that connection is. It’s really been challenging as we’ve been homeworking and relying on calls to keep in touch with people.
“The main struggle with not being able to see those still in prison was gaining their trust and belief. It was a real challenge having to communicate everything through the Offender Management Units – they have a lot on as it is. Now we can get back in to the prisons it’s made things so much easier.
“Employment wise, there’s never been a huge problem thanks to Darren’s skill. But finding housing for people, that’s been hard this last year. We couldn’t arrange viewings as people were wary about seeing other people which means we’ve had to really manage the lads’ expectations about what’s going to be doable.
“I really put the onus on the lads to help themselves too – it’s all about empowerment. If I know they can do it but they lack confidence, my job is to motivate them, not just do it for them.
“The best thing about our programme is that it’s not a tickbox exercise, so I can be really flexible in the support I offer after release. Some people I check in with every day, others only once a month.
“I’ve always enjoyed meeting new people. I started my career in recruitment for the private sector, which is a really ‘hard sell’ environment. Then I moved to a CIC supporting unemployed people into work. That was target driven too, but more just about ticking boxes. Recycling Lives Charity is a perfect mix of the two for me. Because it’s grown from a business mentality there’s pace and an eye on results, but all with a social conscience and a real focus on individuals.
“In business you get cash bonuses, but my bonuses now are seeing these men change their lives. I love seeing someone succeed!”