Last week we marked 10 years since Spark Inside was set up as a charity. What a difference a decade makes.
In 2012 we were the first and only charity to offer life coaching to young people in prison. At the time, coaching was a less known concept – but it is rightly coming into its own. We have since grown to work in more and more prisons.
Now our flagship programme, the Hero’s Journey enables people to see that change is possible, and it equips them with the tools to navigate that change. We focus on coaching because it is radical, in that it gets to the heart of people’s values, motivations, how they see themselves and any beliefs they hold which might be holding them back. It is about giving people the tools to improve their own lives. And over and over again, we’ve seen it do exactly that.
As Jay, a 21 year old who was supported by our coach in HMP Lincoln said:
“Since I’ve been out of prison, I’ve stuck to everything I said I wanted to do. My mum said that she’s proud of me. She can see that I’m changed.”
A young person coached in the community shared:
“the fact that my coach could recognise and see that I have a bright future — that gave me more belief and confidence within myself, like I’m going down the right path.”
We could not be more proud of what our coaches and young people have achieved, working together over the last decade.
So, what Hero’s Journey has Spark Inside been on?
The backdrop to our journey has been huge change.
There have been some encouraging developments – for example, there are now half as many young adults in prison in England and Wales than in 2010, and the number of children (under-18s) in custody has fallen by 86% since its peak in 2008 (Prison Reform Trust, Bromley Briefing Summer 2022). But there are other developments that have been extremely alarming. For example, almost half of children in custody (48%) are from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background, and a disproportionate number of young people in custody are care leavers. There are clearly huge, systemic issues at play when it comes to the imprisonment of our nation’s young people.
Over the last few years, the issues in the justice system and conditions in prisons have worsened due to the pandemic, and that has had a hugely detrimental impact on people in custody.
And as of writing this, we are now on our 10th Prison Minister in as many years. So, the old adage, that the only constant is change, has certainly been true for us in the last decade!
In the face of these challenges, we are proud to have achieved great things:
Working with over 1,300 people in prisons
Enabling over 700 young people in prison to go on their Hero’s Journey – helping them build a positive future for themselves
Coaching in more than 10 prisons and YOIs
Coaching over 50 prison staff, supporting them with their own wellbeing and how they can be effective in their roles
Demonstrating that coaching is transformative when it comes to:
And reducing reoffending
So where are we heading next on our Spark Inside Hero’s Journey?
Our next decade is about ensuring that everyone in the criminal justice system has access to coaching. To play our part in achieving that goal:
We will double the number of young people we work with each year by 2024
We will expand into 2 new regions – we’ve already started this through our work in HMP Lincoln, but this is just the first step for us
We will deepen our work in London & the Southeast, working across more prisons
We will make the case for coaching in the criminal justice system with a continued focus on proving impact
And we will seek to change the national conversation on criminal justice.
As we champion coaching as a valuable tool for rehabilitation, we believe that we can help to change the culture of our prisons and justice system. We are aware of the structural barriers that hold people back from utilising their human potential, including racial and economic injustices. And we will never shy away from doing what we can to challenge that.
So, as we look forward to the next 10 years, I want to finish with a quote from a young person, who spoke at our 10 year anniversary celebration last week in London. He told the audience:
“When you look at the Hero’s Journey cycle you can recognise certain chapters in your journey. You start thinking ‘I can be the hero in my story, I can go on this journey’.”
And that is what we’re all about. That is why we’re here.
Thank you to all our supporters, our staff, our coaches and to the governors who have trusted us to work in their establishments. But most of all, thank you to every single young person who has worked with us, who has taken on coaching with an open heart and open mind, and put in the work and commitment to find their Spark Inside.