U-Casadh supports the empowerment of marginalised individuals, with a specific focus on those who have come into contact with the criminal justice system, through stabilisation, training, education and enterprise programmes.
Every year in Ireland there are approximately 13,400 committals to prison. Irish prisoners come predominantly from marginalised communities, having experienced various levels of deprivation in childhood. Their early lives are often characterised by unemployment, lack of education, poor quality housing, and a host of related problems such as addiction, family breakdown, and low literacy levels. A staggering 60% of prisoners have been homeless, with the majority having also experienced mental health issues. Upon release, the cycle continues, as many return to these same deprived areas and are more likely to reoffend, fuelled by a lack of targeted support. Crime is just one element of this cycle of social deprivation and exclusion.
As a prison officer for 10 years, Stephen Plunkett saw good people caught in a revolving door system, and found that he couldn’t witness it any longer without acting. Established in 2008, U-Casadh provides a support service for ex-offenders and other marginalised people, along with their families, enabling their full participation in community and economic life. They deliver focused support in a nurturing environment, helping participants to develop personal and professional skills. U-Casadh provides services to people both inside and outside of prison in order to develop their personalised release plan. The approach is then structured in four stages: stabilisation, training and education, employment and enterprise, and alumni support. U-Casadh focuses on providing occupation with purpose, encouraging entrepreneurship as well as sourcing employment in supportive businesses.
To date, U-Casadh has supported the integration and progression of over 1,500 people. In 2014, an external review of the programme revealed that the reoffending rate of participants was just 27%, compared to 62% nationally. Furthermore, the review cites increases of between 78% and 98% in areas such as self-esteem, confidence, and education. It costs the taxpayer a minimum of €65,000 per annum to imprison one person. U-Casadh delivers its services for approximately €1,000 per individual per year. U-Casadh provides a life-changing solution which not only reduces someone’s likelihood to reoffend, but provides a path to a meaningful life with opportunity.