LandWorks takes top prize at the Charity Awards 2024

10 Jul 2024 News

Chris and Julie Parsons

LandWorks has taken the Overall Award for Excellence at this year’s Charity Awards for its decade of work helping ex-prisoners to shake off their criminal identity and successfully exit the criminal justice system.

Trainees who have received occupational training, pastoral care and peer support at the charity’s site in Devon have far lower reoffending rates than prisoners who are released straight into the community – 5% rather than the national average of 37%.

The Charity Awards judges were impressed by the way the charity built trust with its trainees and helped them to rebuild their lives by understanding the experiences that led to their criminal behaviour in the first place. Priya Singh, chair of NCVO, said: “This is not just about how you get a job after you come out of prison. This is about how you turn your life around, how you become a new you – then a job will come. That’s what so powerful about this programme.”  

LandWorks was established in 2013 and became an independent registered charity in 2016. The site has since grown to include a kitchen to teach the trainees cooking skills, a market stall to sell its produce, and pottery and carpentry workshops. The charity also offers counselling and therapy, tailored resettlement services and peer support. LandWorks says it provides “a consistent and supportive environment in which trust can develop and change can happen”. 

While lived experience is key to its ethos and many of its staff are former graduates of the programme, the charity is careful that trainees are not trapped by their criminal identity, and learn to see their potential beyond the justice system.

In 2022-23, the employment rate for economically active LandWorks graduates was 94%, whereas only 30% of adults leaving prison are in employment within the first six months of their release. And the reoffending rate is just 5.2% – far lower than the national rate of 37% for adults released from custody. 

Around 200 trainees have taken part in the LandWorks programme over its 11-year lifespan, at an average cost of £7,000 each, while the cost to the state of a single prison sentence and probation is closer to £70,000.

Former chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick has supported LandWorks since its inception. He said: “Ministers should note that LandWorks provides one of the best examples in the country of how we can reduce reoffending, turn lives around and prevent future victims.”

The charity has now secured funding to package up its decade of evaluation evidence and present it to policymakers in a bid to convince them to replicate the model in other places, and potentially in different formats, such as BikeWorks, CarWorks or FloristryWorks. The charity’s founder and CEO, Chris Parsons, believes that resettlement ought to be viewed through a public health lens rather than a criminal justice lens, and hopes to persuade the Department of Health to take it forward as a public health programme.

LandWorks was chosen as the Overall Winner by this year’s judges from a total of 10 category winners; it also took the top prize in the Social Care, Advice & Support category. The charity was presented with the two awards at a glittering ceremony at the Royal Lancaster London last night.

Judges’ comments

Charity Awards judge Anne Fox, CEO at Clinks, described Landworks as a highly innovative model of tackling recidivism. “The way that they have created that community, it’s just different gravy, it really is. There’s just something nice about how they work – they’re very, very person-centred.

“And because of politically where we are right now, any work supporting people to leave the criminal justice system that focuses on their right to do so in a positive way, really needs to be celebrated. It isn’t even the economic argument that we need to make, it’s the argument that it’s ok to invest in offenders.”

Sharika Sharma, head of business development at CCLA, said the work LandWorks is doing is “incredible, intensive and so badly needed”.  

Martin Edwards, CEO of Julia’s House, added: “They are doing everything right. The way they treat people with dignity and respect is so important, and they have a model that works. It seems to me that if you were just out of prison, this is the best place you could land.”

Matt Nolan, chief executive of Civil Society Media, congratulated LandWorks on winning the highly-coveted award.

He said: “At a time when our prisons are in crisis and too many offenders are largely consigned to the scrapheap, Landworks refuses to give up on people.

“Its person-centred and highly effective approach to resettlement looks beyond the ‘offender’ label and supports people to navigate a way out to a life beyond crime.

“It has proved to be sustainable, successful, and scalable, and we are delighted to award it our highest honour. We can only hope that ministers will also see its potential and take it to the next level.”

Peter Hugh Smith, chief executive at CCLA, Overall Partner of the Charity Awards, said: “Charities are experiencing extraordinary challenges, making it vitally important that we continue to promote their endeavours and celebrate excellence in the sector.

“This is why CCLA is proud to be the Charity Awards’ Overall Partner again this year – so we can play our part in highlighting the heroic work of charities large and small, right across the UK.

“I pay tribute to all 10 winners who deserve full credit for their outstanding work. And I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Chris Parsons and all the team at LandWorks, who have won the much-coveted Overall Award this year. Your person-centred approach is an inspiring model for others.”

LandWorks’ response

LandWorks founder and director, Chris Parsons, said: We were surprised enough to win our category, but to then go on to win the overall award is just amazing. We'd like to thank the judges who clearly understood what LandWorks is all about.”

“This is recognition for our team, volunteers and supporters – and for our funders whose belief in the project, and willingness to back us early on, made it all possible. Perhaps more than anything it is recognition of all the men and women who have been on placement at LandWorks and worked so hard to turn their lives around.  It is not easy to change things when you've become involved in crime and offending, but it is possible.

“I hope that we have shown that there is a different way of doing things in the criminal justice system that works and that is in everyone's interest.  With the right support, people can transform their lives and reoffending can be avoided.  We hope we can take our message to MPs and Ministers in the new parliament.”

Other winners

Alongside the nine other category winners and the recipient of the Daniel Phelan Award for Outstanding Achievement, LandWorks was presented with its two trophies at the ceremony hosted by writer, comedian and political commentator Baroness Ayesha Hazarika.

Paul Farmer, who is currently chief executive of Age UK and was previously chief executive of mental health charity Mind for 16 years, won the Daniel Phelan Award for Outstanding Achievement. Click here to read why

Click here to read more about LandWorks on the Charity Awards website.

Click here to read the full list of Charity Awards 2024 winners.

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