“This is the most incredible, life-changing experience. To feel inspired …to feel included, to feel important and listened to.”
In January 2019, our Foundation embarked on a three-year partnership with Clean Break, a charity and women’s theatre company set up in 1979. Over 40 years, Clean Break has been changing lives and changing minds on stage, in prison and in the community.
Women’s offending is frequently underpinned by a range of complex and gender-specific needs. For example, women prisoners are more likely to be struggling with domestic or sexual abuse, mental health and substance misuse. Women find it very hard to have these needs understood and met in the community, often leading to contact with the criminal justice system. In turn, this contact exacerbates the issues women are struggling with, such as housing and unemployment, and subsequently 48% reoffend within a year of release.
Clean Break seeks to change this. It helps women build the wellbeing, skills and opportunities to transform their lives and play a more integrated and active role in society. Through its theatre productions, Clean Break humanises and gives voice to women’s experiences in the criminal justice system: building understanding, and inspiring audiences to be part of positive change for women within our society.
Through a programme of theatre-based workshops and personal development, Clean Break helps its Members (women with experience of criminal justice) develop the performance and creative skills to participate in public-facing work, while building key skills, confidence, self-esteem and wellbeing. This is complemented by one-to-one support and referrals to specialist services to help women address issues linked with offending. The programme helps women re-build their own lives, while supporting wider change through raising awareness of the hidden experiences of women in the criminal justice system.
Columbia Threadneedle Foundation’s partnership with Clean Break will provide £90,000 over three years alongside further support through volunteering, pro bono assistance and advocacy. We look forward to working on “buddy” programme for employee volunteers.
- Clean Break supports 70 women each year via the Members Programme, plus 100 serving women prisoners through prison residencies and workshops
- Each year more than 70% of Members progress into education, employment and volunteering. By contrast, of women who joined the Members Programme last year 87% had been unemployed for two years or more, and 43% had no qualifications
- Just 5% of Clean Break Members reoffend, saving £4.57 in public spending for every £1 invested in the charity
- Of Members engaged last year 89% said they were more confident and 89% were more hopeful about the future
- According to research, Members developed vital “timekeeping, teamwork, self-esteem and confidence, collaboration …[and] study or vocation skills”
- A growing body of evidence supports the transformative potential of arts-based interventions in the criminal justice system