On Tuesday 13 June, a new hub aimed at helping people leaving prison to re-integrate into the community opened in Durham.
Funded through NHS England and known as the RECONNECT Hub, the facility on Old Elvet is the first of its kind and provides service users with a safe and accessible place to get support with their health and wellbeing needs after release from prison. The hub was officially opened by the Rt Hon Lord Bradley PC (a life peer and former Minister of State for Prisons) alongside Kate Davies CBE, Director of Health and Justice Commissioning for NHS England, and Dr Linda Harris OBE, Chief Executive of Spectrum Community Health CIC. Service users who have been supported by RECONNECT were also in attendance.
Lord Bradley says, “I’m delighted to be officially opening the RECONNECT hub, an important facility which has the potential to make a real difference in the North East and help people who are leaving custody to make a fresh start. By making it easier to access health services and support after prison, we are reducing the risk of reoffending and helping to build safer, healthier communities for everyone.”
Service users can use the hub to make calls, attend initial appointments on release day, get help with practical needs such as charging phones / electronics and pick up forms and paperwork to help them engage with follow-on support. In just six months, the Hub has already provided a space for multiple community groups which support vulnerable adults including Gamblers Anonymous, Alcoholic Anonymous and housing provider drop-ins.
The development of the hub has been supported by local partners including HMP Durham, Durham Constabulary, Durham County Council, Jobcentre Plus and many others.
The Hub is part of a wider RECONNECT service in the North East, one of several care after custody services commissioned nationally by NHS England. The purpose of RECONNECT is to support prison-leavers in staying connected to key health services after their release from prison, in the hope that this will improve their long-term health outcomes and reduce the risk of reoffending.