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Community chaplaincy begins a new chapter 

Community Chaplaincy Norfolk (CCN) celebrated the beginning of a new chapter this week, as the new chair of trustees Chris Tomlinson led his first annual meeting.

CCN is currently supporting around 30 prison leavers, providing mentoring, advice and signposting as they transition into the community. Chris reaffirmed the importance of “raising awareness of the desperate plight of some prison leavers” as well as developing the package of support which CCN provides.


This package has recently included more pre-release work with prisoners, increasing the skill set of mentors, and developing relationships with organisations which provide voluntary and paid work. 


At the annual meeting, which took place on November 3 at St Stephen’s, the new chair reported recent and upcoming staff changes, including the appointment of Chris Hull as mentor co-ordinator, to cover the maternity leave of Abby Erwin. Chris Hull is a former social worker who has been volunteering as a CCN mentor.


Paula Callam, the charity’s administrator, will be retiring in February, and CCN is planning to expand the role for a new appointee. It will also be advertising for a second mentor co-ordinator to support the growing number of volunteer mentors.


As well as expanding its staff team, CCN will also be looking for new trustees, particularly as Danny Doran-Smith and Laura Bell move on to new roles outside Norfolk and step down from being trustees.


Mel Wheeler, CCN’s manager, shared how she enjoyed working for a small and agile charity and reflected on what sustainable growth might look like for CCN. The extended CCN community, she said, is now approaching what might be considered an ideal size of 150, including 30 clients, 20 mentors, nine staff and trustees, 30 working relationships with funders, supporters and friends of the charity, as well as friends and family of clients and former clients coming back for aftercare. 


She reported how the charity had run two eight-week courses for new mentors this year, where they could learn how to help clients become integrated, confident and fulfilled members of the community. Some of those who had recently completed a mentoring course received certificates during the evening from Chris Tomlinson.


Lady Dannatt MBE, the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk and patron of the charity, thanked the outgoing chair of trustees, Rev Matthew Hutton, for ensuring that everything was ship shape for the handover.


“I had no idea how rewarding I was going to find this role,” said Lady Dannatt, and she went on to share some statistics which highlight the importance of CCN’s work. In September 2022 the prison population of England and Wales was 81,309, compared to a prison capacity of only 77,760. “We imprison more people per capita than anywhere else in Europe,” noted Lady Dannatt – almost twice as many as Germany and Sweden.”


She noted that a high proportion prison leavers are recalled, often because they have missed probation appointments rather than because they have committed a crime. The number of recalls last year stood at 7,000.


Lady Dannatt introduced one of CCN’s clients who described himself as a “prolific and priority offender with much of his offending behaviour driven by addiction”. CCN began working with him in 2020, and although he was twice released and twice recalled that year, he has now, with the support of a mentor, stayed out of prison for 15 weeks, found full-time employment and stable accommodation, and joined a CAP money management course. It is a model of the kind of change which prison leavers are able to achieve through support from CCN.


Bishop Jane Steen from King’s Lynn shared some closing thoughts and ended the evening by giving the blessing.


Pictured above are from left to right CCN Chair Chris Tomlinson, Mentor Co-ordinator Chris Hull, and new mentors Maxine Kerry, Rick Stuart-Shepperd, Steve and David Messenger receiving their certificates with CCN Manager, Mel Wheeler. 

Eldred Willey, 04/11/2022

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