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Introducing the Minerva Social Enterprise and Project

24/11/2011
Minerva Project The Minerva project is a Hull CDRP led project funded through One Hull and Working Neighbourhoods Funding. Enjoying support from Hull City Council, HMP Hull, Humberside Probation trust, Humberside Police and the third sector the Minerva project is delivering a number of significant pathway improvements.

The Minerva Project has enhanced the resettlement process for ex-offenders returning to the City of Hull following a sentence of less than 12 months. It maximises the positive opportunities available to offenders.

Hull Prison houses 1040 offenders at any time. Nationally the average cost of an offender in prison for a year is approximately £40,000. In the year ending March 2008 403 prisoners had been released from Hull Prison directly into Hull. Re-offending rates for those sentenced to less than 12 months in custody remain the highest of all disposals, with an actual re-offending rate of 58.8% and a frequency of 282.7 offences per 100 offenders.

The 10 strong Minerva team consists of an engagement team tasked with operating within the walls of HMP HULL and providing 'through the gate care' for offenders re-entering society. All these team members are seconded from the prison or probation service and have been trained in coaching, mentoring and engaging hard to reach offenders who are referred to as 'volunteers' as the project is totally voluntary.

On the perimeter of the prison in a newly refurbished Resource Centre is the support team for these workers and the volunteers. The team is staffed by experts in the seven pathways including accommodation, education, training and employment, health, alcohol and drugs, finance, debt and benefit issues, attitudes and behaviour and family issues. This staffs is drawn from both the public and voluntary arenas and all have extensive expertise in their fields with 'reach back' into their respective organisations. They give immediate and accessible advice and guidance to the Minerva workers, their volunteers and to members of their families attending the prison to visit their partners. This team ensure that services and service providers integrate at the correct operational and strategic level thereby minimising waste and duplication.

The final part of the team is the project manager and a small admin team to ensure that what is done is recorded and evaluated to disseminate as best practice to other agencies and partners throughout the UK.

An innovative part of the project is the creation a Social Enterprise Community Interest Company (CIC) with sufficient resources to bridge gaps in the labour market. The CIC has a management board of public sector workers involved with the project and a local magistrate. It complements the work of the Hull Prison resettlement team and works with offenders in the weeks preceding release to ensure their future employability.

The Minerva staff 'meet at the gate' on the day an offender is released, which is accepted as a critical period of need, and introduces them to the Social Enterprise employment opportunity and offer support through the next 12 weeks of integration back into society.

The Social Enterprise (CIC) consisted of a 2 semi derelict factory units within Hull on a Community Asset Transfer lease for 7 years from Hull City Council (NPS). The Minerva volunteers have now refurbished the factories as an operating base. The Social Enterprise has now launched its first micro business's delivering a fully functional tyre and car serving outlet from part of its units and its sister micro business a metal fencing and gate manufacturing arm and an external construction facility. These business's, now in operation are generating income to ensure the sustainability of the Minerva project. The other refurbished second factory unit now complete and there are a number of small meeting spaces to develop entrepreneurial business, an industrial kitchen, an interactive meeting place and a crèche for volunteer's families and the local populace.

The Social Enterprise has now diversified and entered into a charitable consortium led by Hull CVS and the business products company Meredith Group, offering new and used office furniture, business relocations and clearances, from their centrally located showroom premises in Reform St. Hull.

In the process of this work the volunteers will gain accredited skills in entrepreneurship, business development, building and allied trades and IT skills. All these skills will be subject to nationally agreed training standards and NVQ attainments. These skills are key to the future regeneration of our City and its workforce. After sufficient progress in the Social enterprise volunteers will be assisted to move on into employment within the community and local business.

The current performance figures of the project are that we now have over 500 people who are engaged with us including 24 females. From this we have had 62 who have re-offended within the target period of 12 weeks. This gives us a re-offending rate of 13.9%. Our volunteers are in the community leading active and stable lives.

On a cost benefit analysis it is agreed nationally that each offender would cost the criminal justice system approx £55,000 per annum therefore if we calculate our current engagement rate since February 2010 we will have saved the public purse in excess of £14million.

For further information or no-obligation cost-effective quotations on any aspect of the projects business activities, please visit their web site or contact the Project Manager direct on RussWaterman@minervasocialenterprise.co.uk


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