Meet the charity helping ex-offenders turn their lives around

Staff at Norwich charity Fresh Start with office dogs Grace and Maggie

Staff at Norwich charity Fresh Start with office dogs Grace and Maggie - Credit: Sonya Duncan

A bid to keep more ex-offenders out of prison has seen the creation of a Norwich charity which has been transforming lives for two years. 

Fresh Start is a "lived experience charity", meaning that the people who work in the organisation have lived through the same experiences as those they are supporting.

Jamie Barnes is a service manager for the Pitt Street-based charity, and said: “We are very bespoke in what we offer to our clients. 

“We have some people who come in simply wanting us to help to get them some training in construction. 

“However, sometimes people will have issues like housing, not being job ready, drug and alcohol addiction, so we create a care plan to get them the support they need.” 

Fresh Start and ex offenders charity based in Norwich.Jamie Barnes, service manager Byline: Sonya

Fresh Start and ex-offenders charity based in Norwich. Jamie Barnes, service manager Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

The charity was co-founded by Cathy Grint who offered work experience to offenders while in custody through her business FSG Signs in NR3. 

Jamie said: “She saw that there was a real lack of experience led support."

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Jamie was still in custody when he began working at Fresh Start in August 2020.  

He said: “I was released in January 2021 and I’ve been working here ever since. 

“I have a lot of experience from my previous roles in drug and alcohol support, so I’ve been able to create referral links and really help to shape the charity.” 

Fresh Start offers eight different workshops in house including self-awareness, adopting a growth mindset, setting goals, interview techniques, CV’s and job searching.   

Fresh Start and ex offenders charity based in Norwich.Byline: Sonya Duncan

Fresh Start and ex-offenders charity based in Norwich. Byline: Sonya Duncan

Jamie said: “It can be really hard coming out of custody, so we are able to advocate for the care they need.” 

The charity is in the process of introducing independent living workshops.  

The manager added: “Some people don’t have core skills to manage on their own, they risk losing their tenancy, so we want to offer support to teach them how to successfully live independently.” 

The charity's most unique aspect is that their support has no end date, statistically people are more likely to re-offend in their second year of being released.

Therefore, the charity offers ongoing support whenever it is needed to lessen the risk of people going back into custody.