Lady Dannatt praises Norfolk chaplaincy charity
Lady Dannatt, the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, applauded the work of Community Chaplaincy Norfolk (CCN) when she spoke at its annual meeting.
About 50 people joined the meeting, which took place on November 4 at St Stephen’s Church in Norwich, where CCN is based.
Rev Matthew Hutton, who is Chair of Trustees, opened the meeting by reaffirming the purpose of the charity, which is simply “to support men and women at they leave prison in Norfolk”. CCN was, he observed, just about to celebrate its third birthday, having been founded on November 6, 2018. “We are in good heart,” he added.
Matthew paid special tribute to Rev Madeleine Light, vicar of St Stephens, who has provided a safe and confidential environment in which the charity can operate, and he welcomed the appointment during the year of Abby Erwin, the charity’s first mentor co-ordinator.
Lady Dannatt took the opportunity of the event to share some wider observations about the changing criminal justice system in the UK. There has been, she noted, an increase in longer prison sentences, with 11,000 inmates now serving at least 10 years. In particular, more prisoners under 25 have been given sentences of at least 15 years. She reflected on how much society changes over such a long period, and therefore how hard it is for someone to re-enter who has become unfamiliar with society’s skills and norms.
Lady Dannatt noted that many CCN clients, by contrast, were ‘frequent flyers’, receiving a series of short sentences for relatively minor offences; by gaining the necessary support and encouragement, such clients had a chance of breaking the reoffending pattern.
Mel Wheeler, who manages the charity, provided some facts and figures about the last year. CCN currently has 18 volunteer mentors who accompanied 58 clients in the last 12 months, aged between 21 and 61. The upper point of that age range is soon to rise as the charity takes on an 82-year-client, who is being released from prison into a care home.
New initiatives launched during the year have included a drop-in session on Wednesday afternoons at St Stephen’s and a pen pal scheme for prisoners with longer sentences to serve. Although Norwich-based, CCN has already supported clients in Great Yarmouth and Broadland and is currently looking for mentors in west Norfolk. A sign of the growing recognition of CCN has been a formal information sharing agreement with the Probation Service.
Dr Jane Steen, Bishop of King’s Lynn, closed the meeting with some reflections about life in community as a reflection of the community within the Trinity, and gave the parting prayer and blessing.
Community Chaplaincy Norfolk is currently recruiting volunteer mentors across Norfolk. If you are interested in finding out about the role, please contact Mel Wheeler on firstname.lastname@example.org
Pictured above are, from top to bottom, Lady Dannatt, Rev Matthew Hutton, Mel Wheeler and Bishop Jane Steen.