Dyslexia : Revolving Doors

Organisations including the Prince’s Trust, the National Offender Management Service, The Manchester College, Serco, the South Yorkshire Probation Service, Doncaster MBC, the Travellers’ Chaplaincy, NGage, Elsium, Gate, the CVS, and several members of participating prisoners’ families attended the event.

John Biggin OBE opened with a welcome and related his first meeting with The Cascade Foundation’s CEO and Project Director, Jackie Hewitt-Main, explaining how after reading the ‘Dyslexia Behind Bars’ report and hearing Jackie’s passionate presentation to him that day, he had felt as though he’d been hit by a train and praised the achievements of The Cascade Foundation so far.

“Jackie has been like a breath of fresh air to the prison. Her passion and commitment translate easily in to an almost contagious sense of optimism in those she interacts with and the potential for sustained and often life changing results for prisoners going through her programme cannot be underestimated. As a long time student of desistance and what works, \i feel that the potential for good that this programme can deliver is very much worth not only investing in, but embracing as part of the DNA of our prison.” John Biggin OBE (Director of HMP & YOI Doncaster)

The Director of Doncaster Prison then introduced Jackie who gave a presentation to show the evolution of the project, its research and unique approach to supporting and teaching disengaged offenders as well as results from the initial group of learners within the prison. A short documentary, produced by Second Shot, a film and theatre production company based within the walls of Doncaster, involved several offenders and staff explaining the effects of learning difficulties on life and how Jackie, Colin (one of our tutors) and The Cascade Foundation have changed things around, giving them a more positive outcome. Several of the prisoners, including a group of Travellers, stood and gave brief accounts of both their problems and the progress they have made on the programme.

“I’ve waited 20 years for something like this to come along” (serving prisoner)

Although already emotionally moved by what they had already seen and heard, some in the audience were brought to tears by one prisoner, an artist, who explained that health problems had taken away his fight for life but had been given new hope through this project to not only begin painting again but also become part of the mentoring team within the prison to help others to learn.

The Right Honourable Rosie Winterton MP (Doncaster Central) gave a short speech, to say how she had been impressed and moved by the prisoners’ stories, the achievements within the prison by the project and the chance, along with Rebecca Harris MP (Castle Point) and Patron to the foundation, to hand certificate and awards to the men. They were thanked with some artwork painted and presented by a prisoner and the Cascade team could not have been nearer to bursting with pride for all of the participants than at this event.

Jackie ended the presentation with thanks to all that had attended and helped to evolve the project to this point, congratualted those prisoners that had participated and introduced the Chair of The Cascade Foundation, Jacquie Buttriss to give official thanks to everyone present including the Cascade team.

“Thank you all for sharing your stories, touching our hearts, opening our eyes and bringing us close to tears! Many congratulations on all your achievements” Jacquie Buttriss (Chair of TCF)

To finish, everyone was ushered to nearby rooms for food and refreshment courtesy of HMP Doncaster and the opportunity to the men and their families as well as each other, making useful contacts for the future. The event overall, was a great success and enabled all attending to see and hear the results of the project first hand as well as read them on paper. Confidence and self esteem can be difficult to convey in text but these men are testament to the power of multisensory techniques and the unique teaching styles embedded in The Cascade Foundation.

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