Supporting young adults with experience of care and custody

Always Hope

With Multiple partners, West Midlands

This new solution brings practitioners from prison, probation and local authority leaving care and Lifelong Links services together with the young adults to integrate their support and help them build supportive social networks.

Our Always Hope Handbook and Manual are now live and available to download here:


Integrated Planning and Assessment Manual

For a conversation about what it would take to offer Always Hope support in your service Contact Jessie Ben-Ami

The need

Care experienced young adults (18-25 years old) are over represented in the prison system.

Care experienced young adults (18-25 years old) are over represented in the prison system. Approximately 25% of all adult prisoners have had experience of care, compared to 1% of the general population.

Many care leavers lack family support and other positive relationships, and are sometimes more vulnerable to negative social networks such as gangs and unhealthy, exploitative relationships – increasing their risk of getting involved in crime and being imprisoned. The care system itself, as well as any past trauma can contribute to having a profound impact on the young people.

Frontline practitioners from prison, probation and leaving care services rarely have any clear strategy on how to collaborate to support these young people and there are duplications and gaps in provision.

Limited resources and high caseloads mean practitioners don’t get the chance to share their expertise and ideas. Communication between services can be patchy and sometimes opportunities to work together to find suitable housing and employment are missed. There is a lack of clarity between professionals about each other’s roles, which makes it difficult for the young adults to know what support they can expect to receive and from whom.

There are, however, pockets of good practice, often due to the commitment of individual staff or small teams, who are persistent in providing support, going above and beyond their role.

It is clear, therefore, that the systemic nature of many of these problems means that a systemic response is needed.

The approach

Innovation Unit is working with partners in His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, the National Probation Service, Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton local authorities, Family Rights Group, Prison Reform Trust, Catch-22 (NCLBF), Care Leavers Association and Barnardos, to improve outcomes for young adults with experience of care and custody during their time in prison and on release back to their community.

We are grateful for the support and funding from Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Barrow Cadbury Trust and Ministry of Justice (Local Leadership and Integration Fund).

Together, as a partnership we have co-developed the four elements of the Always Hope project:

  1. Creating an integrated plan for each young adult by aligning statutory assessment and planning between practitioners in the prison, probation and leaving care services.
  2. Developing a sustainable and coordinated support network for care leavers, both for when they’re in prison and when they’re released – using Family Rights Group’s Lifelong Links approach with Birmingham and Coventry local authorities and working with the Family Group Conference Service in Wolverhampton.
  3. Identifying care leavers in custody, including working with peer mentors in prison to encourage those with care experience to self-identify, and increased awareness training for prison staff on how to identify such young people.
  4. Training for all organisations and people to build a shared understanding of care experienced young adult’s strengths, needs and vulnerabilities and to learn about the scope and boundaries of each other’s roles.

The aims

We’ve an ambitious aim to reduce reoffending, enable rehabilitation and increase the chances of a positive future for our cohort of young adults.

We believe the way to achieve this is to:

  • Align support across the young adult’s personal networks and participating organisations.
  • Ensure that every young person has a positive support network of family and friends they can turn to.
  • Clarify what support our cohort can receive and how they can better access it.
  • Provide a protocol for prison, probation and leaving care support services outlining a coordinated approach to assessing and planning with such young adults.

We have also:

  • Created accessible protocols, learning materials and tools to help future adopters understand and adapt the model to their context.


Integrated Planning and Assessment Manual

  • Shared the learning and tools with future adopters and professionals across the country through events and forums.

We will provide an external evaluation of impact in December 2024, however we already have interim evaluation data telling us that practitioners in the pilot were better able to collaborate with one another:

“It gave a good insight to, you know, what support services they can offer, how we can actually work together… I definitely would feel comfortable working with every single person that was in the room.” HMP BRINSFORD PRISON OFFENDER MANAGER

We have also found that the pilot has supported young adults to understand and engage with meetings with professionals, giving them more clarity on their support:

“They've preferred the joint working between professionals, having less meetings, having a clear plan for them as opposed to a lot of people” LOCAL AUTHORITY PRACTITIONER

To find out more about Always Hope, Email Jessie Ben-Ami