About Kenward Trust

Kenward Trust has a national reputation for excellence in the field of drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation. Every year we help transform the lives of more than 200 men and women.

Opportunities to make a difference, develop your skills and work with dedicated and passionate professionals.

Are you passionate about helping people turn their lives around?

We are proud to have worked with individuals who have drug, alcohol and homelessness issues for over 49 years. We are a small registered charity with a big reputation for providing specialist services in these areas. We believe in offering our service users every opportunity to reach their individual potential and live life differently.

“Witnessing the change, self esteem and confidence take place is an amazing feeling.”

If you have the required qualifications, skills and competencies to provide the very best services to those we help, we would love to hear from you. Please apply, stating clearly which role you are interested in, by sending a brief covering letter outlining why you think you’re perfect for the role and a completed application form to the HR team.

About us

Kenward Trust founded in 1968 is a registered charity helps men and women overcome alcohol and drug misuse. More than 10,000 have been helped, with 190-200 on an annual basis, by delivering residential rehabilitation projects, and community and youth programmes across Kent, Medway and East Sussex.

Kenward Trust Therapeutic Community is a residential drug and alcohol recovery project offering a supported residential environment for men and women. We deliver a therapeutic programme incorporating recovery focussed group work, counselling/art psychotherapy, social enterprise and education sessions.

The project team is highly skilled and experienced at supporting individuals through the delicate and challenging process of change, within a safe and supported environment.
Residents are encouraged to take responsibility for their own emotions and behaviours and, through group working positively and pragmatically address former addictive behaviours and life styles.

The residents participate in our social enterprise activities, which include woodwork, horticulture, animal management and kitchen. These activities support our social enterprise businesses – Kenward Conference Centre, Sage & Time Café and Charitique Charity Shop

Please click here to see our Statement of Purpose.

Please click here to see our latest brochure.

The Kenward Trust is a member of the Kent Invicta Champer of Commerce 

Our Mission, Values and Christian Ethos

Our Mission:

To offer people the opportunity to change their lives and reach their full potential.

Our Values: 

Kenward Trust has a strong sense of its Christian roots and ethos, from which we draw the underlying values underpinning every aspect of our work and the way we deliver services.  At our core is our belief in empowering and involving service users and significant others in all we do.

This incorporates the following elements:

  • Respect
  • Commitment
  • Integrity
  • Non-judgmental
  • Realistic
  • Positive
  • Creative
  • Passionate
  • Trustworthy, professional and accountable
  • Inclusive
  • Empathic
  • Challenging
  • Learning
  • Humility

Our Christian Ethos

Our Christian ethos underpins the way we help people in crisis. We aim to reach out to those who are on the margins of society and we believe that everyone deserves a second chance.

Our programmes are not based on religion and we welcome people from all backgrounds and faiths. We encourage service users to explore spirituality because it can help them in their recovery and to grow as a person, but we recognise that everyone is different and we respect all personal opinions and wishes.

Miriam Barker is our chaplain who visits once a week to ‘be’ in the chapel for whoever would like to join her from our projects for a chat, to read a story in the Bible and to pray. 

Additionally she runs an Alpha Course which uses video talks and discussion times to explore the Christian faith. No question is off limits and people are encouraged to think about who God is, why he sent Jesus to the world and what having faith in him might mean for their life. This course is playing a part in the healing, transformative, recovery work that happens at Kenward Trust.

The Kenward Trust was founded in 1968 by Ray and Violet Sinden, who had a strong Christian faith. Here is how it happened.

The couple had five daughters and two sons and they all worked hard together on the family farm in Weald (near Sevenoaks), which became a prosperous one. But Violet had another concern in her heart and her daily prayer was that Ray and the children might come to know the love of God in their lives.

In 1965, at the age of 48, Ray became a Christian when he began to read the Bible, after years of neglect. He had attended church with his grandparents, who raised him after his father’s death; each Sunday they would walk to a Baptist Chapel at Crowborough, which was a distance of 3.5 miles from Eridge (East Sussex).

Ray found that there was a God who loved and cared for him, and his attitude to life began to change. He was no longer interested in making as much money as possible for himself, but wanted to help people realise that there was a God who loved them, even if no one else did.

Ray and Violet’s eldest daughter, Olive, was friendly with a young Church Army Captain named Paul Deeming, who worked amongst the homeless people on the streets of London. Many of them had been sober for some weeks and wished to remain in recovery, but there was no place that would give them shelter once they left and the future was bleak, often leading back to the old habits.

Ray decided to take some of these men home for rehabilitation. He offered them a four-roomed flat over a garage block and they joined the family for meals, bible study and leisure at the farmhouse. The first man came in June 1967. He was a Canadian war pensioner who was able to pay a small amount towards his keep and did some work in the garden. He stayed with the family for about one year and was soon joined by three others.

The farm became overcrowded and the family decided to sell up the farm in order to purchase a much larger house, to help a greater number of homeless people. A large country estate near Maidstone called ‘Kenward’ was up for sale. It was a most impressive dwelling, with 37 rooms, standing in 15 acres of farmland and overlooking the river Medway (although it needed renovating). It had recently been vacated by Dr. Barnardo's Homes, because they had moved to smaller premises. In July 1968, Ray and Violet moved into Kenward House, with five children and five men.

From those modest beginnings, the Trust today takes in around 200 residents each year across eight buildings, as well as reaching hundreds of young people through prevention initiatives and helping others with advice and support.

History of the House

This estate, nestling where our greensand hills are breached by the Medway, derives its name from the family who enjoyed their own woodland view and curve in that river, from 1533 to 1749. This was from a date of 1533 when John Kenward, had land conveyed to him, and became a Yeoman of Yalding. In 1700 one John Kenward gave three silver vessels to his parish church at Yalding, and the estate passed in marriage to Sir John Shaw, when his grand son also John Kenward died in 1749.

In the early nineteenth century it was in the tenancy of Thomas White. Kenward remained a country house until the second world war, and run similar to that by Lady Frances Fletcher who in 1881 had six maids, plus footman, butler and groom. Her husband Major-General Edward Charles Fletcher J.P. and son Lionel John William Fletcher J.P. both served several years as churchwardens, as did the Kenwards before them. The Major died on the 31st of August 1879 and by will left the property to his wife who passed away on the 29th of December 1901.

In 1902 Kenward was sold to Henry de Courcy Agnew of Winchester House, Old Broad Street, London E.C.

Mr Agnew sold the property in 1908 to the Honourable Richard Eustance Bellow of Jenkinson Park in the County of Kilkenny Ireland.

On the 1st of March 1911 Mr Bellow sold Kenward to Mr Robert Ernest Alexander of 24 Lombard Street London.

Then on the 10th of March 1919 Lieutenant Colonel Oscar Evan Boulton purchased the property from Mr Alexander.

When the Colonel died in 1942, Kenward was bought the following year by Dr Barnardo’s who used the grounds until 1967, when on December 6th that year, the children were sent to school as usual, and when collected were taken to a new home in Maidstone.

A Mr Sinden knew the house had become available and moved in his family in 1968 to start the initial work of the Kenward Trust that we know today. Ray and Violet Sinden came from Sevenoaks Weald, already with five men they had taken in after Ray had visited an elderly homeless man who lived on the London Embankment.

Today the Trust’s work has grown, and there are now (2017) eight houses for men and two for women in Kent, providing rehabilitation for drug and alcohol addiction and homelessness, in a Christian context. They also now have an Outreach team that ventures into schools, shopping centres, night clubs and wherever there is an opening to advise on alcohol and drugs.


Some of the people who have turned their lives around with our help have shared their experience in the hope that it will help others.

Here are some real life stories that may be of interest to those considering a programme with us. They will help in understanding our approach and the individual projects we offer. We pride ourselves on our ability to engage everyone individually and to tailor our proven programmes to maximise success.





Past service users are very welcome to send us their story. Please email it to Katie Darvell at katie.darvell@kenwardtrust.org.uk.


CQC Reports

CQC Reports

Kenward Trust is registered with and assessed by the Care Quality Commission.

We are very pleased to say that we received an overall Good rating from our report on 1st July 2019, with an excellent rating for our Social Enterprise and Education Programmes.

To view our CQC report click here.


Our People


Penny Williams, Chief Executive Officer

Ali Pert, Director of Clinical and Residential Services

Clare Roberts, CQC Lead and Board Assurance

Keith Greenhalgh, Chief Finance Officer


Bridget Langstaff (Chair)

Jeremy Simon

Dr. Anthony Jones

Jean-Pierre Darque

Paul Fletcher

Peter Brook

Paul Andrews

Please click here for a full list of contacts.

Privacy Policy

Privacy Policy

At Kenward Trust we are committed to protecting your personal information and being transparent about what we do with it. We are committed to using your personal information in accordance with all applicable laws concerning the protection of personal information and not to do anything with your information you wouldn’t reasonably expect.

This policy is written in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and GDPR.

How do we obtain your personal information?

We collect information in the following ways:

  • When you give it to us directly you may give us your information in order to sign up for one of your events, when you can contact us to ask about our activities, to tell us your story, use products from us, seek assistance, make a donation to us, fundraise on our behalf, or otherwise five us personal information.
  • When your information is available publicly or from other external sources we may combine information that we already have about you with information available publicly or information available publicly or information available from external sources in order to gain a better understanding of you and to improve our fundraising methods, products and services. Such information could be for example, socio-demographic and lifestyle information and information about previous donations you have made. The information we get from other external sources may depend on your privacy settings or the responses you give, so you should regularly check them. We may also obtain information about you where it is publicly available and found in places such as Companies House, Land Registry website and information that is published in articles and newspapers.

What information do we collect?

Personal information is any information that can be used to identify you. For example, it can include information such as your name, date of birth, email address, postal address, telephone number, fax number and credit/debit card details, as well as information relating to your health or personal circumstances.

Data protection law recognises that certain categories of personal information are more sensitive. This is known as sensitive personal information and covers health information, racial or ethnic origin, religious beliefs or other beliefs of a similar nature, political opinion and trade union membership. We would only collect sensitive personal information where there is a clear need to do so such as participation in a challenge event, to ascertain what services are relevant to you or to cater other services and support to you. Before collecting any sensitive personal information about you we will make it clear to you what information we are collecting and the purposes for collecting such.

How do we use your information?

How we use your information would largely depend on why you are providing it. We may use your information in the ways set out below.

  • We use your personal information to give you the information, support, services, or products you ask for.
  • We use your information to gain a full understanding of your situation so we can develop and offer you the best possible personalised services.
  • We use your information to keep a record of your relationship with us and for internal administrative purposes (such as our accounting and records), and to let you know about changed to our services or policies. We use your personal information to look into, and respond to, complaints, legal claims or other issues.
  • We use your personal information to claim Gift Aid on your donations.
  • We use personal data to carry out statistical analysis and research in order to help us to understand how we are performing and how we can improve our services and meet the needs of people that require our help.
  • We may also use your personal information for other purposes which we specifically notify you about and, where appropriate, obtain your consent.
  • Direct marketing with your consent, we may use your information to send you communications about our work and how you can help us to help you, for example, information about our campaigns, volunteering and fundraising activities and how you donate to us. Occasionally, we may include information from partner organisations or organisations who support us in these communications. Our forms have clear marketing preference questions we include information on how you can say no to such marketing. You can let us know if you would prefer not to receive these communications at any time by emailing enquiry@kenwardtrust.org.uk or calling us on 01622 814187.
  • Building profiles and targeting communications we use profiling techniques to ensure communications are relevant and timely, and to provide an improved experience to our supporters. Profiling also allows us to target our resources effectively. We do this because it allows to target our resources effectively. We do this because it allows us to understand the background of the people who support us and uses our services and helps us to make appropriate requests to supporters who may be willing to give more than they already do or to tailor our services to better suit them. Importantly it enables us to provide you with a service that is better suited to your needs while raising more funds, sooner, and more cost-effectively, than we otherwise would.

Who do we share your information with?

If you participate in raffles, your information will be processed by our trading companies who administer and run these on our behalf. In addition, from time to time we may exchange your personal information with other organisations for the purposes of fraud and credit risk reduction. We may also share information with our financial and legal advisers for the purposes of obtaining advice and protecting our legal rights.  We may also share your information with the emergency services if we think there is a risk of serious harm or abuse to you or someone else.

When we collect your personal information we use strict procedures and security features to prevent unauthorised access. However, no data transmission over the Internet is 100% secure. As a result, while we try to protect your personal information, Kenward Trust cannot guarantee the security of any information you transmit to us and you do so at your own risk.

How do we use cookies?

Kenward Trust uses cookies to give you a more personalised web service. To see how we use cookies, what they are, and which ones we use please go to our ‘How we use cookies’ page. This page also includes instructions on how to disable cookies if you don’t want them to be used.


The Kenward Trust website may include links to other sites, not owned or managed by us. We cannot be held responsible for the privacy of information collected by websites not managed by us.

If you are 16 or under you must get your parent/guardian’s permission before you provide any personal information on our websites.

Accessing and updating your personal information

You can request access to any information we hold about you by contacting us at enquiry@kenwardtrust.org.uk. Please let us know of any changes to your personal information, or if you would like any information removed.

Changes to this policy

We may change our privacy policy from time to time so please check back periodically.

This Privacy Policy as last updated April 2018.

If you have any queries or complaints please contact our Data Protection Officer via email: shenda.west@kenwardtrust.org.uk


This post would suit a ‘home’ cook who can work flexibly primarily over the weekend with some weekday afternoon shifts up to 14 hours a week. We are also looking for ‘bank’ cooks who are happy to be flexible with their hours and can cover holiday and sick leave.

Flexible hours including weekends

Competitive hourly rate

 We require strong team players who can use their own initiative. Full training given.

All candidates will be subject to an enhanced DBS check and be required to provide supporting references.

Click here for the job description

Recovery Workers and Waking Night Staff

We are recruting permanent Recovery Workers and Waking Night staff.

Are you interested in becoming part of an innovative substance misuse team? We are looking for caring and professional people who preferable have experience of firstly working within Drug and Alcohol services or similiar fields such as Offender Services or Homeless Charities.  However we will consider other suitable applicants with transferrable skills.

 If you tick a box for above and are able to work across a 7 day rota we would like to hear from you. 

Preferably applicants will have an NVQ in Health and Social Care Level 2 (or equivalent) or the Care Certificate. If not they will need to show willing to work towards achieving the Care Certificate. 

Competitive hourly rate of pay

This is a demanding but rewarding role and candidates need to be able to work well under pressure, be able to think quickly and use their own initiative. We require strong team players who can build relationships with Residents and embrace diversity

Click here to view the supporting job description for the Recovery Worker role

Click here to view the supporting job description for the Waking Night Worker role

Please download an  application for employment form ffrom this website or send your CV and supporting letter to: jane.wenban@kenwardtrust.org.uk

All candidates will be subject to an enhanced DBS check and be required to provide supporting references.

Closing date: 30th October 2019

Flexible Workers - Day and Night Shifts

We require caring and professional people to work flexible DAY and NIGHT shifts for our Kenward Community project.

These contracts would suit people who have other positions or responsibilities and do not want to commit to regular shifts. We are offering a competitive hourly rate and training will be given. There is also the opportunity to work towards achieving the Care Certificate.

The day shifts are over a 7 day rota and are a mix of early and late shifts. The early shift starts at 7.45am - 3.45pm and later shift 12.15pm - 8.15pm with a 30 minute unpaid break included. A flexi worker will often be asked to cover a permanent member of staffs annual leave but also short notice absence, so must have a flexible approach.

The night shifts are over a 7 night rota and are 8pm until 8am.

Click here for the Flexible Worker JD

If you are interested in applying and some relevant experience please download and complete and application form or send your CV and covering letter to: jane.wenban@kenwardtrust.org.uk 

Real life stories - Residential

Les’ story (Kenward House)

"The Kenward staff convinced me that I did have a reason to live."

Les remembers a childhood where football was what he lived for and professional clubs sent scouts to watch him play. But, in his mid-teens he began smoking and drinking with his mates, which soon progressed to regular cannabis use.

“Within a year I was smoking cannabis morning, noon and night,” says Les. “My mates and me were getting into fights with other gangs, and sometimes the police were called upon to deal with us. Then someone told me about a job that was going at the local brewery.”

Before long, Les was delivering beer and spirits all over London, at a time when every pub landlord would give lorry loaders a drink. In no time at all, Les was drinking every working day and spending all weekend ‘on the beer’ too.

After three years, he could no longer hide his constant state of inebriation, or the fact that he was one of many involved in the corrupt practice of 'off sales' (selling stolen alcohol). Sacked from the brewery, he went to work for the council’s refuse department.

This was another job which allowed Les to drink away his afternoons, having completed an eight-hour shift. However, it was not long before he was using drink and drugs during his working day. In 10 years he spent much of a very good salary on a habit that would see him sacked when his employer could no longer turn a blind eye to his behaviour.

Mutual addiction

As is often the problem with addiction, no one could convince Les that he had a problem. In his mind he was physically fit from a decade of heavy manual labour, and he was functioning ‘normally’ in spite of a large, daily intake of alcohol and narcotics. His increasingly aggressive behaviour and regular sick leave from work were symptoms he chose to ignore.

But Les began to suffer withdrawal symptoms that he could only control with more alcohol. Drunk at work, he nearly fell off a cargo ship he was loading and was saved only by a deckhand’s quick reflexes. At this time in his life he met the woman he would marry. She worked behind the bar in his local pub.

Her name was Lynne, and she already had three daughters who instantly welcomed Les into their family. Tragically, Lynne was a fellow addict and what was initially a happy family situation would descend into a life of spiralling debt, serious ill-health and, for the three girls, constant fear of what might happen to their parents. Les and Lynne began to suffer fits because of their drinking, the last of which sent Lynne into a coma from which she never emerged.

Beside himself with anguish, and intent on drinking himself to death, Les was taken by family members to a detox centre in Maidstone en route to becoming a resident at Kenward House.

Recovering from guilt

The first two months of his recovery will remain forever hazy for Les. He continued to be suicidal with guilt over Lynne’s death, and nearly walked away from Kenward House on three separate occasions. “I did not deserve to live,” he says. “That’s how I felt all the time. But the staff at Kenward are brilliant at listening, and when they’d done that, they would keep reminding me that my three girls needed me.”

Following detox and several weeks of sobriety, Les found that his emotions no longer had anything to suppress them. Between bouts of uncontrollable tears, kicking the walls and thinking he was losing his mind, the occasional ray of hope shone through. Fellow residents who were further into their recovery helped convince him to stick to his recovery programme. After all, they truly knew how bad he felt, as well as how much better his life could be.

To his surprise, Les completed three months of recovery at Kenward and declared that he was fit to leave! Gently persuaded otherwise, he remained for a further three months, realising that working harder at recovery in the security of a professional setting would pay crucial dividends later on.

And those three extra months would prove priceless. In Les’ words, “It took me the first three months at Kenward just to clear my head, deal with all those bad feelings and see that there was hope for me. The next three months helped me to plan a life back in the community, without alcohol.”

Les moved into a new flat on the day that he left Kenward House. His three girls and his mum had stood by him throughout his long addiction. They believed he could find a life free from the misery of dependency upon drink and drugs. So it is not only Les who gives thanks for his transformation, but his family too.

"It can be done, y’know – to lead a sober and happy life. And Kenward saved me and gave me the courage to get on with doing just that."

Story written in February 2013.

Find out more about Kenward House

Damien’s story (Kenward House and the Malthouse)

"I’m very grateful to Kenward’s staff that I’m still alive today.”

Damien grew up in Brighton, the son of a largely absent father who had an addiction to gambling. However, his childhood was largely happy, he enjoyed school and he showed great promise on the football pitch.

At sixteen, Damien was signed by Yeovil Town Football Club and thought that he had achieved his dream. But his girlfriend back in Brighton became pregnant and he returned to his home town to be with her. Tragically, the child died.

Damien gave up on a football career and tried to cope with the loss of his child with increasing amounts of alcohol and narcotics. Then, at the age of 18, his father briefly returned to his life to tell him a devastating secret.

His father had been leading a double life with another woman for several years, effectively moving between families as his gambling and drug habits dictated. On hearing this, Damien’s mum had a nervous breakdown, leaving him to look after her and a baby brother, whilst struggling with addiction.

By the age of 19 he was dealing drugs in a desperate attempt to fund a self-destructive lifestyle dominated by speed, cannabis, and whatever he could get his hands on. Robbery also became necessary for him to live like this.

Unbreakable cycle

A brief stint in the army ended when Damien’s girlfriend left him, which sent him back to drink and drugs with a vengeance. Another girlfriend was a heroin addict who he thought he could help get ‘clean’. Instead, he developed a taste for heroin himself, even as his girlfriend gave birth to a son. Their partnership did not last; Damien did not see his son grow up.

“The law caught up with me and I was sentenced to three years for burglary,” says Damien. “In prison I completed a RAPt course (Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners). So I was free from drink and drugs… until my sentence was over. Six weeks after leaving prison, having relapsed into addiction, I was arrested for armed robbery.”

A much longer prison sentence followed, during which time he completed another RAPt course, gained qualifications in Maths and English, and an NVQ as a fitness instructor. Eventually he was moved to an open prison where drugs were all too easily available. This led to violence and a backwards move to HM Prison Lewes and then each of the three Isle of Sheppey prisons in turn.

Once again, although clean and sober on release, Damien headed straight back to his old addiction, which inevitably led to crime and a return to HM Prison Lewes. He entered a detox programme on release, and was living in recovery from addiction until he entered another relationship, with another woman who used heroin.

Admitting the truth

Two children were the result of this relationship, and for a while the family were functioning together under the same roof. But, as he says, “Regardless of everything else I was doing, I just could not stop drinking.” (“Everything else” included methadone, benzedrine, crack cocaine and heroin.) Eventually Damien’s partner threw him out of the family home.

He became ‘impossible to house – thus homeless – in the local area, as all the landlords knew not to open their doors to him. In the summer of 2012, Damien woke up in Ashford Hospital having suffered his eighth overdose.

Following another detox programme, he made a crucial choice. In his words, “It was either Kenward House or a mixed-sex residential project with the freedom to come and go at will. But I chose Kenward for the discipline of having to stay on site for the first month and work hard at my recovery. It forced me to confront myself honestly and has made all the difference.”

Damien finally felt safe enough to properly analyse his life. His previous attempts at detox and recovery had been for the wrong reasons, mainly because they eased his passage through prison. He had never honestly wanted to remain abstinent for the rest of his life. Thanks to the group work, counselling and therapy at Kenward, his attitude had changed – recovery was within his grasp.

Damien continues to work on his rehabilitation at the Malthouse – Kenward’s second stage project – and he is building a structure for a new life in the community. He volunteers at a local horse sanctuary, attends recovery meetings regularly, and has joined a football team for the first time in two decades. He has regular supervised play sessions with his children, and is back in contact with the teenage son he never knew. “To succeed in recovery you’ve got to want to do it yourself,” he says. “For the first time ever I truly want that, thanks to Kenward.”

"I’ve had too much pain because of my addiction, and I don’t want to go back to where I was. Thanks to Kenward, I don’t have to."

Story written in February 2013.

Find out more about Kenward House

Find out more about the Malthouse

Karyn’s story (Naomi Project)

"Kenward for me was the right place at the right time!"

Karyn grew up in a ‘normal, loving family’ with a nice house, nice cars and a foreign holiday every year. But she always felt that she didn’t fit in with the rest of the family… that she wasn’t the same as the four other children.

“I took my first alcoholic drink when I was about 12 years old,” says Karyn, “from a cut glass decanter that sat on the dresser in the back room of our house. All I remember is that it was brown and tasted vile. I think it was whisky. Despite the taste, I soon came to love the warming effect it had on my stomach, and the mellow feeling in my body and brain.”

From an early age Karyn had always had some kind of addiction. Food was a problem for most of her early life, with various diets eventually leading to slimming pills and once she had taken that first drink, alcohol became an addiction, which dominated her life for decades.

After several failed attempts to detox, Karyn chose rehabilitation over the likelihood of an early death. Kenward Trust’s women-only project, Naomi, seemed to be just what she needed. Based on the AA’s 12 Steps, its therapeutic workers and counsellors would address the underlying reasons for her addiction, helping her to change her behaviour.

However, entering Naomi meant a three-month separation from her daughter, Courtney. This became a critical problem when Courtney was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Never again

The diagnosis came only a few weeks after Karyn had entered Naomi, where her keyworker and fellow residents were already helping to reduce her obsession with alcohol. But, a few weeks of rehabilitation are not enough to equip anyone to continue in recovery for the rest of their lives. Therefore, Karyn was taking a huge risk when she decided to be with Courtney during her operation to remove multiple tumours, at a hospital 60 miles from Naomi.

“Thanks to the love and support of the Naomi staff, I was there to hold my daughter’s hand when she most needed me,” says Karyn. And I was sober.”

Having felt so many years of shame as a mother whose addiction had caused her to fail her family, she now wanted to commit to a life of abstinence.

Karyn knew that ‘never again’ was a big statement to make. Frankly, she didn’t know if she would be able to avoid alcohol for the rest of her life. But at least now Karyn was certain that she wanted to return to Naomi, finish her recovery programme and then be a good mum to Courtney and a grandmother to Courtney’s daughter Dolcie.

Her motivation to continue her residential rehabilitation remained strong. It would need to be. Karyn was about to face one of the biggest tests of her life.

Facing the sadness

Karyn did return to Naomi to complete her three-month recovery programme. She addressed the guilt and shame she felt, having been a ‘bad mum’ to her daughter. Now, with only four weeks until she left the project, her keyworker told her there was something even greater she would have to address. Otherwise, her chances of living in recovery from addiction once she left Naomi would be greatly reduced.

Karyn had lost her young son, Jordan, to cancer 18 months previously. That tragedy had caused her drink and drugs use to spiral wildly, leading to those failed detox attempts. The grief she still felt could be a ‘trigger’ for her to relapse into addiction.

Before leaving Naomi she spent a grim, unhappy weekend of writing about Jordan’s death. This was absolutely necessary in order for Karyn to face the sadness that continued to weigh her down. Eventually, she was able to read what she had written to therapists and residents; safe in the knowledge that no one at Naomi had ever judged her for her previous life.

Painful as this experience was, it felt to Karyn as though an enormous weight had been lifted from her. It led to her attending a family therapy session with Courtney where, although dreading the prospect, she was able to be truthful with her daughter and begin to make amends for her past behaviour.

In Karyn’s words, “We had always been best friends, Courtney and me, but I knew how hard she’d had it. An alcoholic mother and years of life-saving chemotherapy and operations is an awful burden to place upon a person. I didn’t know what she would say to me – maybe the damage I’d done was irreversible… unforgivable even. But the family therapy went really well, and I felt like the chains were gone and I was finally free.”

"I believe the staff at Naomi saved my life and I’m truly grateful to them that I can now live with my family, in recovery from my addiction."

Story written in April 2013.

Find out more about the Naomi project for women

Mark’s story (Kenward House, the Malthouse and Supported Housing)

"Kenward has been a godsend for me! I’m forever grateful."

Mark had felt like the ‘odd one out’ in his family from childhood. This feeling would be a major reason for his eventual addiction to alcohol. But ,with the help of the Kenward Trust he discovered what was at the root of that feeling, and how to overcome it.

The naughty boy

Mark’s childhood in Somerset consisted largely of entertaining his school friends by acting the fool in class and causing problems for his family when at home. Much of this behaviour was to mask the fact that he did not believe he was as good as everyone else, particularly when it came to his education. His poor results led him to distrust education, which led to poorer results and more misbehaviour… an endless downward spiral of non-achievement.

In his early teens he smoked cannabis and started drinking alcohol to become friends with an older group of boys who congregated regularly in the local park. The alcohol took away his strong sense of failure, and the boy who had previously been shy around girls was now talking to them with confidence. However, this artificial sense of self-worth came at a great price.

Funding the addiction

Expelled from school and with no qualifications to his name, Mark sank deeper into a drink and drugs habit which he funded by shoplifting. Whilst his friends were receiving their first pay packets through apprenticeships and jobs, Mark was in a young offenders’ institute near Weymouth getting a ‘short, sharp shock’ in terms of a military style approach to incarceration.

Shortly after leaving the institute, he found himself packing meat for a living and earning his own money for the first time. Sadly, this served mainly to fuel an addiction to drink and drugs, with some of his money spent on supplying his friends with substances. After a few years, they were all relatively wealthy thanks to steady employment, and spending their money on cars, houses, and families. In contrast, Mark was losing jobs through drunkenness and absenteeism and any money he did have was purely funding his addiction.

Homeless and hopeless

A huge missed opportunity came when working for a welding firm, where he had the chance to study at the local college. Mark’s fear of education stopped him from enrolling, and he also developed a taste for lunchtime drinking which only deepened his obsession with alcohol. This led to him losing the welding job, losing his girlfriend, losing the flat they shared and selling his prized motorbike.

“I was off the rails by then,” says Mark. Theft and assault led to arrest and he found himself in Her Majesty’s Prison Exeter. Life became an unbreakable cycle of anti-social behaviour orders, finding 'girlfriends' who could give him a roof over his head, arrests and prison sentences. Naturally, all of this was fuelled by the inescapable need to drink. Eventually, a probation officer suggested residential rehab to Mark and after finding himself on his knees to God asking for help, he realised this was his chance for redemption.

The root of the evil

Mark made good progress at Kenward House in Yalding and remained in recovery up to and including his stay at the charity’s Move On accommodation in Gravesend. However, at this point he relapsed and found himself in prison once more. But Kenward was there to accept him back into the house where he worked hard in the kitchen and the garden, and absorbed the teaching, therapy and counselling thoroughly

His move to our second stage project, the Malthouse in Uckfield, produced an epiphany. The education tutor, who is also qualified in adult dyslexia diagnosis and support, suspected that Mark was dyslexic, and confirmed it by testing him. Suddenly Mark could see why he had felt ‘different’ and somewhat isolated from other people for so long. Thereafter, he was able to take full advantage of the English and Maths classes taught at the Malthouse, following this up with qualifications in those subjects at the local college! Mark also volunteered at the local horse sanctuary and in a charity shop in the town.

Never give up on your dream

Following his successes at Kenward House and the Malthouse, Mark re-entered Move On housing (this time in Southborough). The project manager encouraged him to continue in education and Mark is now a qualified plumber to level 2 standard. A great moment for him was the calm and positive response he received from his college tutors when explaining to them that he was dyslexic. It was a sign that he could lay the damaging feeling of inadequacy to rest forever.

This summer he broadened his horizons with a tour around Europe and has recently passed his driving test. His next step is to find employment with a plumbing firm who will help him qualify to level 3 standard, enabling him to operate on all gas heating systems. So he is on the verge of securing something like the apprenticeship he craved when all his school friends were embarking on theirs, many years ago. Back when he used to feel like the ‘odd one out’, but could never explain why.

Story written in July 2012.

Find out more about Kenward House

Find out more about the Malthouse

Find out more about Move On

Jack’s story (Kenward House and Supported Housing)

"I am so grateful to Kenward and to those who continue to fund its amazing work."

Jack’s young life had encompassed a great deal of tragedy before he first attempted residential rehabilitation in Australia. When this proved unsuccessful, he returned to England where his addiction would worsen, before he arrived at Kenward House.

An innocent victim

Jack was born in Eastbourne into a wealthy, Catholic family. His Australian father returned to the land of his birth when Jack was very young, leaving his mother to bring up her only child. She remarried and went out to work, leaving her new husband at home with Jack.

His stepfather physically and sexually abused him, with his mother remaining oblivious to this fact for several years. Tragically, Jack had no idea that this was unnatural behaviour until he was at infants school. “I suddenly realised that children who got things wrong in the lesson were not being shouted at or hit,” says Jack, “and then I knew what my stepfather was doing to me was wrong.”

The culture of alcohol

Jack loved his mother’s big, Irish family and the occasions when so many of them would all be in the house. Alcohol was ever-present at these times and he first got drunk at the age of 11 by secretly drinking the dregs of the adults’ glasses. By the time he was 14 he was a regular drinker, emboldened by the courage that alcohol seemed to give him. He began to use cannabis too, and was coming to realise that he was homosexual.

Whilst at school, a much older man began a relationship with Jack, luring him with money and alcohol. Eventually he realised that he was being groomed for prostitution, and introductions to other older men offering cash and drinks followed. When this situation became public, Jack had to leave school amid traumatic scenes, and with no sympathy shown to him.

Ruled by drink

He was now a social outcast dealing with his misery by staying indoors and drinking anything he could harass his mother into supplying. The advent of college gave him a brief chance of a new life, but Jack merely took advantage of the party scene there. His consumption of drink and drugs grew and he stole from friends, strangers and off licences to fund his addiction.

“By the age of 17 I was ruled by drink,” he recalls. His family decided that a move to Australia to live with his father would be the means of him escaping his troubles. They ensured that he was well-funded in this endeavour. However, it was not long before he was absorbed by the nightclub culture, where he spent all his money from a good job in healthcare to ape the look and lifestyle of the “amazing looking party people” of Melbourne’s gay community.

In search of a way of life

Jack returned to Europe to travel with his boyfriend, enjoy the party life in London and return to Australia via Thailand. Back in Melbourne he gained an apprenticeship as a chef, but had lost it by the age of 20 – unemployable because of his overwhelming dependency upon alcohol.

During this aimless search for happiness, Jack separated from his boyfriend, was hospitalised because of his addiction several times and entered into unhealthy relationships with older men. He tried detox and rehab for the first time, but after a few successful months “one drink on a Thursday led to two drinks a few days later” and he returned to England as miserable with life as he had been when he had left his homeland.

Burying the past

In spite of finding a great management post in England, Jack remained unhappy. His huge salary was wasted on alcohol. “I physically could not stop drinking,” says Jack. “I went through mental agony every day trying to stop reaching for the bottle.” Self-harm became part of Jack’s life, and then a new low point was reached when he attacked a work colleague… and then, a family member.

Even when residential rehabilitation was offered and Kenward House identified by Jack himself as the best place for him to address his addiction, he still did not really want to join a recovery programme. However, the encouragement of the staff enabled him to immerse himself in the counselling and therapy. He resolved to be “brutally” honest about his past, “so as not to give himself an excuse to relapse in the future.” And he threw himself into Kenward’s gardening programme with gusto.

The right staff

Jack left Kenward House after four months, determined to make use of the charity’s Move On accommodation, which had been a major reason for him choosing Kenward. The Move On or supported housing provides a base for people in recovery to take positive steps back into a community. Jack is now living in Brighton where he has gained full-time employment.

“I knew nothing about real life until I came to Kenward. The people there understand exactly what you are going through, where you want to get to, and how to achieve that. They also believe in the 12-step programme and that is a huge benefit because you continue to use it to keep you clean after you leave Kenward. But, unless you have the right staff at a rehab the programme will not work. Kenward’s staff changed my life and helped me to get sober.”

(Jack’s name has been changed to respect his privacy.)

Story written in November 2012.

Find out more about Kenward House

Find out more about Supported Housing

Donna’s story – video (Naomi Project and Supported Housing)

Donna was at the Naomi Project for 6 months in 2011 and then in Supported Housing for 5 months until March 2012. The following video was recorded in June 2012, when she had moved on and was living independently and volunteering. She tells her story very candidly and openly, and we thank her for this.

Find out more about Naomi Project

Find out more about Supported Housing

Kate’s story – video (Naomi Project)

Kate was at the Naomi Project for 6 months until February 2010. Soon after, she left for Spain and became actively involved in AA groups there, where she played a key part in helping to organise an AA convention in 2010. Kate kindly provided her testimony in June 2012.

Find out more about Naomi Project

Mickey’s story – video (First stage recovery and the Malthouse)

Mickey completed a first stage recovery programme and then went onto the Malthouse for a second stage recovery programme. When making this video in June 2012, Mickey had been living independently for 3 years and being in the local area, he was still making use of the free fortnightly support group for ex-residents, a relapse prevention tool offered for life.

Mickey shares his impressions on Kenward’s staff and approach and tells us how much his life has changed.

Find out more about the Malthouse

Carolyn’s story (Naomi Project)

"Kenward Trust saved me from certain death and I now have the life I always wanted."

A traumatic childhood left Carolyn Hughes an alcoholic at just 15. In trying to silence her memories, she drank away 20 years of her life before, with the help of the staff of Kenward Trust, finding the strength to stop. She went to the women’s rehabilitation project we used to run in Dartford.

"I was abandoned by my mother at the age of only three, and then subjected to cruelty and abuse from my father. I was plagued with terrifying nightmares and flashbacks and I started drinking at the age of 15 because it helped to blot them out. By the age of 24 I was drinking heavily and wanted to stop, but I couldn’t do it – I was addicted. At 33 I was drinking a litre of vodka, a bottle of wine and six cans of beer a day. I was in debt and depressed. Suicide seemed the only way out.

"My GP tried to help and sent me to a mental hospital, but this didn’t bring about lasting change. I had learnt that my liver was damaged – I was going to drink myself to death if I carried on.

"I heard of the Kenward Trust and its women’s project. It was a lifeline and I grasped it. The care and support of the staff and the therapy programme allowed me for the first time to fully explore the reasons why I drank and to understand how I had been hurt and hurt others. I was so tired of being addicted to drink and so ashamed of letting people down. The project’s team helped me learn who I really was and after six months I left sober, sane and eagerly looking forward to the future.

"This was a new beginning. But even as I left Kenward Trust, I didn’t have any idea how good my new life would turn out to be. My liver healed and I regained my health and energy. I had always wanted to start a family and I was fortunate enough to get married and have two daughters, all within four years of completing the programme! I would never have thought this possible only a few years earlier. It was like a miracle.

"Since then I discovered that I love writing and have had success writing for women’s magazines and am currently completing a novel for teenagers. I enjoy being sober today. My greatest motivation now is my family and my happiness is being able to give my girls the childhood I never had."

Story written in November 2010.

Find out more about Naomi Project


Terry’s story

"Today I am sober and happy because I have got my family back, due to the hard work and support Kenward staff have given me."

Like many Kenward Trust clients, due to his misuse of alcohol at an early age, Terry’s schooling suffered and when he came to us, Terry could hardly read or write. In his own words, this really held him back and it was a significant factor in keeping him in addiction. However, in the six months that Terry spent in recovery with the Kenward Trust, he eagerly engaged in the education programme and when he left, he was so proud of his literacy skills that he put “pen to paper”. These are his words.

The road that led me to Kenward

"At the age of 13 I started drinking and getting into trouble, in and out of young offender’s homes. I think my troubles started after I lost my Dad at the age of six years old. I had two brothers, one older and one younger. Into my teen years, the drinking got heavier and heavier and also started to use drugs. Through my twenties and thirties, I started to suffer bad depression after my wife and kids left me due to my drinking. Things seemed to calm down a bit, I met my wife now, Julie, and I slowed down with the drink and drugs. I then lost my best friend, my mum, and I turned straight back to drink and drugs, only a lot harder this time. It got to a point where I got badly depressed and tried to hang myself.

"After this I was asked to go to Kenward for rehab. On arrival, I was in a bad way, mentally and health wise. Kenward staff looked after me and helped me think things through, instead of just jumping in, they got me back to reading and writing, also how to speak to other people with the education Kenward gave me. Today I am sober and happy because I have got my family back, due to the hard work and support Kenward staff have given me. They have always been there through my ups and downs, they are caring people and they make you feel as part of a family."

Vincent’s story

Forty three year old Vincent, has been suffering from alcohol abuse for more than 25 years, but thanks to his own efforts and the work of the Kenward Trust, not only is he well on the road to recovery, he has also been voted “Student of the Year” by Learn Direct in Gravesend, where he has achieved his City & Guilds Levels 1, 2 and 3 in Adult Literacy.

"I just can’t believe it. In 2005 I was told by my doctor that I would be lucky if I lived for another two years, as my drinking had caused me to have heart problems. I was in a real state and heavily dependent on alcohol, as I have been since I was about 16. Then I went into detox and went straight from there to the Kenward Trust project at Boons Park. Yes, it was tough at first, but then I realised that here was my chance of getting my life back together and I haven’t looked back since."

"Through my drinking, I blew my education and left school with nothing. But I wasn’t going to let my past ruin my future and with the patient help of my tutors, studied English, Maths AND Computer Skills, literally starting from scratch.”

Although anxiety for pushing himself too far was expressed by his tutors, they didn’t take into account Vincent’s perseverance. He achieved 80% in his final exam and was honoured by being awarded the title of Student of the Year!

Tommy's Story - Video

Having wanted to die at his lowest point, Tommy’s life has changed since a life of heroin addiction and crime. Since Tommy started the recovery process he has moved away from the life he previously lead and now can wake up in the morning without worrying about where to go and rob the money for his next fix.

“If I hadn’t gone to the Kenward Trust, I don’t think I would be sitting here today”

Martin's story - video (Kenward House)

Ex-resident Martin made a visit back to us at Kenward and was kind enough to share his own personal story of the recovery programme he took part in at Kenward House and how he feels the trust saved his life.


Find out more about Kenward House

Sam's story

Real life stories - Reset

Carlos' Story

Carlos offending behaviour began at the age of 13 years old in his home town in Portugal which he describes as “petty theft,” stealing sweets from the local shops for fun. At fourteen he started using cannabis “because of peer pressure and wanting to part of the crowd”.  By the age of 16 Carlos was a regular user of heroin and cocaine. It was in this era that he was arrested for his first offence of armed robbery, he was not convicted of this offence.  When he was 19 years old he was held on remand in a Portuguese prison for attempted murder and possession of a class A Drug, he served one month and the charges were then dropped. 

At the age of 21 Carlos decided that he wanted to travel. He first visited Spain where he “wasted the money he had on Drugs”. He moved on to France where he worked and saved his money for two and half months.  Carlos then flew to Holland and spent his savings on a “drugs binge”. He came to England in 1996 and met and moved in with his new partner, they went on to have twin children.  In this period Carlos did not use drugs.  After the breakdown of this relationship and the death of his mother Carlos began to use heroin more heavily and his offending dramatically increased as he needed to fund his habit. Carlos soon became part of the revolving door phenomenon as he received numerous drug related convictions often serving less than a year in prison only to be reconvicted a short while after. 

Carlos was referred to Reset by Elmley Resettlement Department and two Reset volunteers met him in prison at the beginning of May this year.  His needs were assessed using the Seven Pathways for Reducing Offending as a thematic guide.  The Reset volunteers identified accommodation, benefits finance and debts, drugs and alcohol, education and training and children and families as the key areas where he needed support.   Referrals for accommodation were made; contact with appropriate drug intervention agencies was made on his behalf as he needed to continue with his Suboxone prescription. He was supported with his benefit applications, suitable courses for him become an interpreter were found and the volunteers also helped successfully to facilitate contact with his ex-partner.  

Carlos engaged well with his Reset mentors and upon release he was met at the prison gate. Mentor support continued on a twice weekly basis and regular telephone contact was made. Carlos reintegration back into the community was not a smooth process, as he had issues with accommodation and benefits, but he has remained positive throughout and managed to stay off of heroin. Carlos said “that if it was not for my Reset Mentors I would have been back in prison within a week that is a guarantee.  I would have gone back to drugs and my old life, committing crime to fund my habit.  I would have thought what’s the point of me trying it does not get me anywhere. The Reset mentors have helped me sort my life out, they found me accommodation, got me funding while my benefits were being sorted out, helped me do appeals to the benefit agency and even taken me to see my ex-partner.  In fact they have supported me in any way I needed it. They have helped me not lose my marbles”.

Carlos is now looking forward to a “normal “life.  He wants to get off Suboxone and be settled permanently in social accommodation. He wants to attend college to gain qualifications in the five languages he can speak to enable him to work as an interpreter.  He hopes to eventually be able to secure work as a Drugs Intervention Worker and is currently seeking volunteering opportunities in this field.

James' Story

James describes his childhood as “Troubled, the sort of childhood no one should ever experience”.  His father was an alcoholic and James suffered several periods of mental cruelty at the hands of his father. James suffered with many medical problems as a child and particularly remembers his near death experience. At the age of thirteen James found out that his twin sister had died at birth and remembers feeling devastated and found it hard to talk about it with anyone. At the age of thirteen James began to drink alcohol, starting with a couple of cans but this quickly progressed to a lot more. 

At the age of 18 James was convicted of his first offence, indecent assault on a child under the age of 16 years old. He received two years probation and received little help.

James went on to have three children all by separate mothers.  His first child he raised as a single father for many years and continued to remain in close contact with his second child. James then went on to marry and had another child as well as bringing up to stepdaughters.  He remained in this relationship for 15 years. 

James second offence was 2 x indecent assaults on a child under the age of 16 years old.  His victims were his two stepdaughters.  James was charged, convicted and sentenced to 7 years; 4 year custodial and 3 years extended licence. He will also remain on the Sex Offender Register for Life and is subjected to Sexual Offences Prevention Order.

James attributes his sex offending to his mental state, he said “I was struggling with my own emotions and I became complacent about my first offence and circumstances.  I became less aware of my attractive to young females and confused it with my role as a step father.” James says “he went through a range of emotions; angry, guilt, apprehension, fear, anxiety, self pity and guilt”.

James does not believe prison acts as a deterrent but believes that the core Sex Offending Treatment Programme was pivotal to his rehabilitation. He said “it helped him recognise that he did have a problem and made him understand that he was attracted to young females and that this attraction would always be there. He said the course really provided him with the tools help ensure that he did not reoffend”.

James believes that his engagement with Reset has helped him tremendously. He said “that being able to talk to someone who would judge him about his offences has helped boost his self esteem and confidence dramatically.  The support given to him be his mentors has helped him see that he does not have a label attached to him and helped him have the confidence to get out there. He says he is now willing to try new things and it is because of his mentors that he has started to develop appropriate social networks”.  He also has recently made contact with his eldest son and is now re building his relationship with him and is considering entering in to a relationship with a lady that is aware of his past offending behaviour.

James says “that he now  James now plans to secure employment, remain content and self aware. He wants to lead an offence free settled life and become “functioning member of society”.

Kellie's Story

Kellie describes her “childhood as happy and normal” living with her mother, father and brother.  Kellie’s parents remained happily married until Kellie was 28 years old when they split and divorced.  Kellie says she that when her dad left the marital home she found it particularly hard to deal with as she had always been a “daddies girl”.  Kellie remained in regular contact with her father for another 8 years and enjoyed the father and daughter relationship. This contact slowly began to diminish and soon became intermittent for around three years.  Kellie believes that her father began to favour her brother over her and she started to resent this. Soon afterwards contact ceased completely. This is something Kellie really struggled with. 

Kellie’s involvement in the Criminal Justice System began when her ex partner left her and unbeknown to her also left a large drug debt. Kellie says the drug dealer threatened her and demanded his money. Unable to repay this sum of money Kellie was coerced into working for the drug dealer and was expected to act as a runner for him. Kellie told me that this individual “threatened to hurt her family if she did not agree”. Kellie was forced to work for a year as a drug dealer. 

Kellie was arrested, charged, convicted and imprisoned for her first and only offence. Kellie had been pulled over by the police for using a mobile phone whilst driving just outside Gillingham Police Station on what she describes as “Black Friday” (the Friday before Christmas.)The police spotted six deal bags of cocaine in the foot well of Kellies car and they asked her if she had any more.  Kellie admitted to having 126 deal bags of cocaine in her handbag.  The police conducted a further search and found a cash book which revealed customer’s names and monies outstanding, a bundle of unused deal bags and £970 in cash. She was charged with supply and possession of a Class A Drug and her car was immediately seized. She received a 2 year 8 month custodial sentence, serving 11 ½ months. Eight weeks in HMP Bronzefield and 9 ½ months in HMP East Sutton Park open prison. Kellie describes this experience “as a blessing in disguise, the best thing that could have ever happened to me” she said “it gave me a way out; it gave me back my life”. 

Kellie took full advantage the prison educational resources achieving; a City and Guilds level one and two in Food and Hygiene; Level 2 in Literature and Numeracy. As well as a level 2 OCN qualification in Hairdressing; Bics Cleaning Academy Certificate and certificates in Health and Safety and Manuel Handling.  She also worked on the Prison Pig Farm, worked with the horses and helped with the lambing.  She also worked as a Wing Cleaner earning £10 per week and assisted at the Farmers Markets.  She helped out on visit days at the prison selling sweets to the visitors and volunteered in Sue Ryder’s Charity Shop twice a week. 

Kellie was referred to Reset via HMP East Sutton Park where she met with two Reset Mentors on several occasions before she was released.  These mentors have continued to meet with Kellie on a weekly basis since. Kellie says that “she does not know where she would be without Caz and Simone (Caz’s PA)” Kellie said “that she would probably be in a deep depression without them”.  She believes that meeting “Caz has made her life easier” as she has helped boost her confidence, assisted her in looking for work, helped secure a clothing grant for her, helped look for suitable housing and helped her look for appropriate college courses. Kellie said “Caz has even managed to get me funding for a bus pass, because I live in an isolated area and public transport is really expensive”. Kellie says that she really looks forward to their weekly meetings and enjoys the regular telephone contact from her mentor.

Kellie is extremely positive about her future and is currently looking full time employment.  Once she has secured this she plans to save for a car and eventually moved out of her mother’s house into her own home.  But most of all Kellie says aims “to be happy and remain offence free”.

Simon Groves' Story

Simon Groves1:  My Story

I can’t say I had a deprived childhood.  My mum was a single parent but she brought  up me and my brother well.  I was a bit of a handful, though – for example, I always wanted to go around with older boys and to impress them with my daring.  I loved going out into the woods, making bows and arrows, lighting fires and cooking beans, scrumping and being chased by farmers.  By the age of 13, I’d become a ‘wild child’ and was thrown out of my secondary school.  I had no education for a year, then was accepted by another school but I didn’t like it and stopped attending.  I had a spell in a special unit but then I had an argument with the head teacher about my cigarettes and I stopped going. That was the end of my schooling.  I still got a job as an apprentice electrician but it came to an end when the firm went bust.  Then I became a trainee lorry fitter but I lost that for taking time off whenever I had enough money.  A friend took me on in his scaffolding business but as I got into hard drugs I found it more and more difficult to get up and go to work regularly.

I started smoking cannabis when I was 14, then when I was 18 I got into the ‘rave scene’ and was taking ecstasy and LSD.  I got into heroin when I had lots of spare cash – but after a while I just felt too bad to go to work and I had to turn to theft, shoplifting and eventually robbery to pay for my drugs.  The next twenty years were a cycle of prison, release, reoffending and back to prison; and every day was a repetition of the one before – wake up, feel a craving for drugs, work out how I could get hold of enough money for my next fix, go out and commit a crime, get the drugs, go to bed, and then wake up to go through the same pattern again the next day.  My 17-year relationship with the mother of my children eventually broke up and whenever I was out of prison I slept on friends’ sofas – ‘sofa surfing’, with no place to call my own.  (Actually, I could have stayed with my mother or sister but the prospect of staying with friends who were ‘on the gear’ was just too tempting.)

My 40th birthday came along.  It was a milestone.  I was in prison again and I thought to myself:  “What am I doing here?  I should be out celebrating.  I‘ve been in and out of jail for the last twenty years;  I’m suffering from depression; I’ve got painful arthritis in my lower back; and I don’t think I can handle another prison sentence.”  I’d recently heard that my mother was seriously ill; and my children had written to me to slate my behaviour and to tell me that they would give me one last chance to get my act together.  And, on top of all that, it suddenly hit me that most of the other prisoners were kids, barely half my age.  

I had a lot of friendly encouragement from one of the prison officers; and from the prison’s NHS drug-recovery worker, who applied for me to go to a unit that provides supported accommodation for people who’ve made a positive decision to give up drugs.  That’s where I am now – I have my own flat with bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom.  I really treasure it; and everyone says that I keep it in immaculate condition, always clean and everything always in its right place.

A few weeks before I was released, I was given the opportunity of having a RESET mentor and I said: “Why not – you can’t have too many sources of support”.  Michael and Richard came to see me in prison, then Richard came a couple more times before I was released.  RESET can meet you at the prison gate but I didn’t need that because my sister collected me and drove me to Probation and then on to my supported accommodation.  Soon after I moved in, though, Richard came down to see me and, since then, he’s come every couple of weeks.  We usually go out for a walk and just take stock of the progress I’m making.  Recently we went to the local college to find out about plumbing & heating courses.  I could have done that on my own but without Richard giving me a nudge I would probably have put it off; and, anyway, it’s good to have someone alongside you when you do these things, someone who is on your side and just gives you that bit of extra confidence and support.  I really appreciate having a mentor and I think that everyone leaving prison should be offered one.

How do I feel about the future?  You know what, I feel very positive.  There are lots of people – family, friends, Probation Officer, Turning Point worker and the staff of my supported housing unit – who want me to succeed; and I’ve found that the more I do for myself, the more other people seem to want to help me.  After a long time of leading a Peter Pan existence, I’ve grown up and started to take responsibility for myself rather than putting the blame on other people when things go wrong.  I’m gradually re-building my relationship with my children and I really want to do a college course.  In the past, if I didn’t get what I wanted instantly I wasn’t interested; but now I’m prepared to knuckle down and work for long-term goals.  In some ways it makes my life harder than before but I feel a whole lot better about myself and I’ve gained something very precious – hope.


1 Simon has given his permission to use his real name in this case study.

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