Michelle and Alan (not their real names) have each spent a number of years in prison, and are rebuilding their lives. They want to share their story because ScotsCare has given them significant help in having a fresh start.
ScotsCare has over 400 years’ experience helping Scots in London turn their lives around and provides services that fit modern needs.
Michelle, from England, and Alan, a Scot, had recently met on a working holiday abroad but disaster struck after being tempted into committing a criminal act. Sentenced in foreign jails, after five years, they were transferred to UK prisons hundreds of miles apart. Michelle was pregnant with their first son (they had been allowed conjugal visiting rights).
Alan, in Scotland, was freed first and moved near Michelle’s open prison in South East England. Their son was now two, and looked after by Michelle’s mother. Michelle visited them on her weekly day releases. She also began researching options for financial support. “Obviously you can’t just come out, you need help“, she says.
Finding the website of Turn2Us, a national charity that helps people in financial hardship, Michelle entered Alan’s birthplace as Scotland and given information about ScotsCare, which neither she nor Alan had heard of before.
ScotsCare responded with a visit from Isabel Dunlop, her case worker. Michelle says, “Isabel came out to the flat, she saw we had absolutely nothing. ScotsCare gave us a furniture grant, they bought us a cot, a futon for Alan because it was only a bedsit. They basically made it possible for him to live there without any involvement from social services. Because he had a lovely full set-up, they could see our child was secure and stable.”
The family then received a children’s grant, which Michelle explains was “clothes, duvets, blankets, snow boots and everything that a kid needs for Winter, which was just such a blessing, such a weight off our mind”.
Turning a corner
Six years on, Michelle and Alan are married with three boys, and ScotsCare has carried on supporting the family. “These children’s grants that come in November or December, they’re so handy”, says Alan. It’s the time we’re most skint, toward Christmas. It’s always the handiest time to have that.”
They were keen to become self-reliant as soon as possible. Michelle was doing a degree and working in the day. She wanted to progress in her career, but found it hard because she didn’t drive and couldn’t afford driving lessons.
ScotsCare helped pay for the driving course so she can now travel further to do her job as a teacher. Alan is training to become an electrician, on a level 3 qualifying course. He had been trying to find a job that would accept someone with a criminal record. He discovered that “with a lot of the trades, it doesn’t matter too much if you have done time”. He decided on entering the electrical trade.
Isabel, who is now Client Support Manager, says, “We believe as a charity that empowering adults and helping them sustain employment or develop a career has a lasting impact on their children too. It also helps the parents become positive role-models for their children. Alan and Michele are working towards giving them a better future.
“Through a combination of the help we were able to give them, and their own determination, they have done really well.”
Now Alan and Michelle are preparing to go “up the road” to Scotland as Alan misses his home. Michelle says, “I can’t wait. Because of ScotsCare getting Alan his level 3 electrician training, when we go up there, I’ll be a qualified teacher, and he’ll be a qualified electrician.”
About ScotsCare, she says, “it is so willing to give not just once, but say, you know what, we are going to keep helping you until you are back on your feet. The sheer generosity of it, the fact that they are not willing to let you go, they’ll keep helping you until they know that actually you are able to help yourselves, that’s quite an incredible thing, I have never encountered that before.
“Really, without them we wouldn’t be looking at Alan getting a proper career job. I still wouldn’t be able to drive. Our kids wouldn’t have access to other members of their family. We’d be very isolated. Because of them we’ve got better familial ties. No words to say thank you, really.”
“We’re on the up! In a couple of years we’ll be able to start being the kind of people who donate to ScotsCare rather than accepting help from them, which is the ultimate goal, really.”