ACT has been operating for around 50 years and began to support prison leavers with finding accommodation. Read how we’ve evolved and now offer a huge range of services to all individuals and families.
ACT has been operating for almost 50 years. Based in Suffolk, we started as a group of like-minded individuals who thought there must be something more that could be done to help offenders upon their release from prison. We provided supported housing and helped them back into education and employment. As time has gone on, we have expanded our services to help all vulnerable people in the community in many different ways. Our services give people the stability, support and challenge which they need to enable them to realise their full potential. Before ACT became the charity we are today, we were known as SACRO (Suffolk Association for the Resettlement of Offenders). Here’s a historical account from Arnold Barrow, Chief Probation Officer of Suffolk – 1984-2001: “SACRO was established as a charity in the early 1970s. It was conceived by a number of influential people in Suffolk, including magistrates, and was chaired by John Marland, CBE, a then farmer and senior magistrate. (For many years John Marland had an important role at a national level as Chairman of the Central Council of Probation Committees, which in effect was the employing body of Area Probation Committees). SACRO had very modest funds which were donated by the trustees and its objective was to support offenders, especially ex-prisoners, by offering grants for such purposes as obtaining a driving qualification, undertaking an educational course or purchasing tools for skilled employment. In around 1980 the Government introduced a new employment scheme to assist those who found it difficult to obtain work, such as offenders/ex-offenders. This was the Community Employment Enterprise Project (CEEP) under which non-profit organisations were funded on a short-term basis to develop employment schemes for the benefit of the community. SACRO, under the chairmanship of Norman Brown, a retired Ipswich Headmaster, and with the support of Arnold Barrow, then Assistant Chief Probation Officer and Honorary Executive Officer of SACRO, decided to create furniture recycling workshops in Suffolk. It was the strict policy of SACRO to focus solely on employing offenders, except in relation to supervisory staff. The first one which was in Ipswich, based in Foundation Street, provided employment for 40 offenders and was managed by skilled supervisory staff who primarily had carpentry skills. Each offender worked for three days a week and was paid a weekly sum of £60, allowing individuals time to pursue full-time employment or education and training opportunities. Donated furniture was restored and refurbished and then donated to individuals in need or other charitable organisations. The second workshop in Bury St Edmunds, entitled the Lark Workshop, employed 30 offenders/ex-offenders and the third in Lowestoft employed a similar number of trainees and was entitled the Waveney Workshop. In around 1981 SACRO broadened its horizons and established a resource centre in Ipswich, in premises close to the Foundation Workshop. It served a variety of purposes – a drop-in centre for needy people of all ages including the homeless, a resource centre providing materials and advice in relation to employment and training and informal counselling. With the three workshops and the Resource Centre, SACRO was at that time operating a budget approaching £500,000. These projects ran for only three or four years before the national funding was withdrawn and, for a time, SACRO was a much-diminished organisation. Whilst homelessness and the lack of housing for single people, in particular, is a major social issue in 2019, similar problems occurred in the 1980s. SACRO was in negotiations with various local housing providers including the Prospect Housing Trust, which had been set up many years earlier by 3 Probation Officers who each put a little money into purchasing a terraced house for a man about to be released from prison. (The Prospect Housing Trust eventually purchased several houses, which I believe were eventually passed on to other housing providers). My recollection is that the house provided by the Prospect Housing Trust was the first step SACRO took into the multiple housing accommodation field. As SACRO grew its trustees decided to broaden its scope to operate in counties adjacent to Suffolk – and to expand its services. It was re-branded as Anglia Care Trust on 14 June 1989 and has now become a charity offering a wide range of services, many of which were previously provided by statutory agencies.” As time has gone on, we have expanded our services to help all vulnerable people in the community in many different ways. Our services give people the stability, support and challenge which they need to enable them to realise their full potential.