Eastbourne charity set up by ex-offender gets funding

Reformed East Sussex team. L-R, Julie Branch, Sarah Buckley, Theone Coleman, Charmaine Sewell and Daisy Croker (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-190418-091036008
Reformed East Sussex team. L-R, Julie Branch, Sarah Buckley, Theone Coleman, Charmaine Sewell and Daisy Croker (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-190418-091036008

An Eastbourne based group which helps transform the lives of offenders and substance misusers has been given a £15,000 cash boost – weeks after being saved from closure.

Police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne has awarded Reformed East Sussex the money and next week will visit the team of support workers who all have lived experience of the criminal justice system and addiction. They support rehabilitation in the community through education, training and employment.

The service was founded four years ago by Charmaine Sewell, now chief executive officer, after experiencing first hand the challenges of having a criminal record, being in prison and discrimination related to her offending past. As a young child she grew up around violence, drugs and alcohol. She left home at the age of 14 and by 15 was homeless, living on the streets abusing drugs and alcohol.

She had the idea of RES many years ago after being supported herself by a similar charity and successfully turning her life around.

RES now has three employees including single mothers who are ex-offenders and/or ex-substance misusers and are now leading fulfilling lives and working to support others.

One of those is Julie Branch, one of Charmaine’s first clients who now works for her as a support worker. She comes from a background of addiction, experienced domestic violence, homelessness and has been through the criminal justice system. RES supported her in finding voluntary work and courses. She then started volunteering with a substance misuse service which gave her understanding of working with people and supporting clients.

She said, “Working at RES gives me the chance to help those facing stigma, breaking down barriers and proving that - with belief and support - people can and will change for the better.”

RES has a proven track record of assisting the hardest to reach cohort of people and since being established in 2015 it has supported 564 clients with education, training and employment. RES receives referrals from probation, integrated offender management and substance misuse services. Clients on probation or an IOM do not have to report to their officer as each visit with RES counts as a session – also alleviating pressure on probation.