Thoughts, stories and events to share


Sophie O'Sullivan, about 4 years ago

Here on the blog, we collaborated with Switchback in 2017 and featured the story of Switchback Trainee Mo , an ex-offender who worked himself up as a restaurant supervisor.

Today, we reconnect with Switchback and take a look at their current impact and future plans. Switchback aims to harness the skills of more young prison-leavers. In April, they released their new strategic plan Real, Lasting Change which will facilitate this growth over the next three years.

Widening our scope and impact has created an energy that enhances the effectiveness of our support for individual young men. We will expand this way of working while always keeping Trainees at the heart of everything we do.

-Alice Dawnay, Founder and CEO

Since 2008, the award-winning charity has supported 282 young men through-the-gate with intensive one-to-one support alongside real-work training after release as Switchback Trainees. An impressive 59% of Switchback Trainees move into long-term employment, education or training, rising to 84% of programme finishers.

The plan outlines three aims for the next few years: for all young prison-leavers returning to London to have the opportunity to achieve change through Switchback, to inspire change across the criminal justice system and to fortify their foundation. This ambitious approach will ensure that at least 90% of Trainees don't reoffend and at least 60% achieve Switchback's benchmark of real lasting change.

Switchback shows that if you really want to change lives, this is exactly the approach that makes sense. The lesson from Switchback is that providing that trust, that human relationship is central for change. What is heroic about the work that Switchback does is its ability to change lives and to inspire us that it can be done.

-Rory Stewart MP OBE, Minister for Prisons.

Around 50% of Switchback trainees move into work outside of hospitality, inclusive of fitness, engineering and barbering.

Switchback Trainee Cyrus met his Mentor Monique in prison. He was initially nervous to start on the programme. However, he started working at one of Switchback's training cafes Café from Crisis with a positive attitude. This is often the first step into a workplace for their Trainees- half of whom, like Cyrus, have never had a job- and helps to build the habits and discipline required to work full time after release from prison.

It was a big change. But to change you've got want it. I ended up enjoying it, even though it wasn't a forever job. It showed me that I can work and enjoy it.

-Cyrus, Switchback Trainee

With three months of training in the Café from Crisis and one-to-one mentoring from Monique completed, Cyrus decided that he wanted to follow his passion and pursue a career in sports and fitness. His Mentor Monique put him in touch with people in the fitness industry who invited him to shadow them and learn about their work. With the support from Switchback, he felt ready to make the next step towards his dream job.

I loved feeling welcome in sports, and I hope I can give that feeling to other people by working in fitness.

-Cyrus, Switchback Trainee

Cyrus completed an application to work at a large gym chain as a personal trainer. This was a huge milestone in his career journey. Unfortunately, this application fell through without any feedback from the employer. Monique worked through his set back with him. She encouraged him to see the long term, to make a five-year plan and find alternative paths towards his ultimate goal of a job in fitness.

Monique suggested he apply for an event rigging company. This would be physical work, helping him maintain his fitness on the job, whilst also teaching him valuable skills he can use for life.

This time, after a second interview, he struck a chord with his employer and got the job, which will be a vital stepping stone toward forging a career in fitness. Despite these hurdles along the way, Cyrus persevered, showing courage, tenacity and adaptability- transferable skills that employers actively look for in their candidates. Cyrus said that this was a great learning curve for him. He was able to overcome this minor obstacle by working things through with Monique and successfully progressed onto full-time employment.

Working at Switchback enabled him to realise his potential and have a clear goal in mind for the future. He noted how this opportunity with help build responsibility, save money, get him used to a working environment and allow him settle into his new life.

Reflecting on his time at The Café from Crisis, Cyrus looks back at the positive influence working with Switchback has had on his life:

I felt part of something good at Switchback and I had a voice. That's worth giving it a go, definitely. Life's all about growth. Now I'm going somewhere good.

-Cyrus, Switchback Trainee

Why not grab a coffee at Switchback's real work training partner Café from Crisis?

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