FOR charities like Glasgow-based SISCO, the pandemic has presented fundamental issues within several areas, such as obscure governmental third sector priorities and policies, a lack of transparency in regards to funds and grants, and further exposed the social stigma attached to the men and women who have previously experienced incarceration.

By Samuel Marriott-Dowding

SISCO (Sustainable Interventions Supporting Change Outside of prison) originally aimed to develop and deliver recovery initiatives within the Scottish Prison Service, and has evolved into so much more. I have seen first-hand that for many men and women who have left prison, or are in the process of transitioning out, their first point of call is SISCO. This transition from incarceration is unstable, and the statistical evidence of re-offending within Scotland is one of the highest in Western Europe. To combat this, we have placed a whole-person approach to recovery initiatives at the core of our charity model, where multiple pathways are offered to individuals caught up in the cycle of addiction. Recovery Cafes are an integral component of this approach, and are primarily peer-led and self-policed for prisoners, by prisoners, in order to ensure that they are at the heart of every decision that is made, and to offer a safe environment to address complex needs and the traumas associated with addiction.

For many small third sector organisations, the pandemic has developed an adverse charitable climate rooted in a lack of public awareness, a lack of Government support, and extreme competition for charitable grants and funds. Grants and funds are few and far between, and alongside being highly competitive, large multi-million pound charities and organisations often monopolise them – meaning that smaller charities, have to fight even harder for an even smaller piece of a grant or fund. This paradigm of monopolisation is further exacerbated by obscure Government priorities and policies. Upon contacting several MSPs and ministers, including the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, we have been met with broken promises and an overall disinterest in our cause. Governmental support is vital to a cause like ours, support from MSPs and ministers offer direct connections to various grants, funds, and most importantly to the general public’s awareness. Without grants or ministerial support, the rate at which we can engage the wider public about our cause moves at a slower pace. Ultimately, this leads to a lack of public donations, awareness, and the stigma commonly attached to the men and women who have experienced imprisonment is left unchallenged.

To ensure the future of our charity – and most likely many other small third sector organisations – the way economic, political, and social spheres interact with these organisations needs to change and adapt to the new conditions laid out by the pandemic. Grants and funds need to become more transparent in where funding is directed, which can be done by preventing the grant from pooling at the top, and instead, taking a trickle-down approach where the grant spreads to smaller organisations more effectively. MSPs and ministers need to demonstrate a more visible support for third sector organisations, and emphasise inclusivity in regards to what causes are deemed a priority. By addressing these issues, engagement and public awareness will increase which actively increases donations, discourse, and challenges the stigma attached to the experiences of incarceration.

Samuel Marriott-Dowding is communications officer with SISCO