Register or sign in now
Home > News
Email this page
Print this page

Members' Zone

Pattie Gercke, Compassionate Communities
joined 1 day ago
Sheetal Champaneri, Rethink Mental Health
joined 2 weeks ago
Emma Fowle, Premier Christianity
joined 2 weeks ago
Vanda Perrett, HMYOI
joined 2 weeks ago
Caroline Edgerton, Croydon Council
joined 3 weeks ago

News from Lemos&Crane

Ethos and Practice: Comparing approaches to working with vulnerable people

Gerard Lemos

20 November 2013

Many vulnerable people have complex histories which involve histories of offending, drug use, mental health problems, homelessness, family conflict and relationship breakdown.  There are clearly overlaps among these problems and many people have many problems.  Nevertheless it would be wrong to assume that people who have had one or two of these problems have had the lot. Despite these overlaps and similarities in people’s needs each sector of support agencies has evolved its own ethos and hermetic moral universe. Prisons and services for ex-offenders have a heavy underpinning of moral notions of right and wrong.  Drug services are seen as health problems as well as aspects of criminality; the boundaries are not always clearly drawn.  Mental illness requires treatment but is also a risk to public protection. People with intellectual disabilities need safeguarding as well as independence.  Homeless people are not tarred with the brush of moral transgression, but they are implicitly seen as social failures – people who cannot move on and live independently.  Stigma is strong, often incoherent, insufficiently contested and easily divorced from the specific needs or identity of an individual. Labels become identities in the minds of others and, if repeated often enough, in the mind of the individual themselves.

When ethos becomes practice in service delivery, the differences are actualized: rehabilitation and desistance in prisons; ‘moving on’ in homelessness; recovery in mental health; abstinence in drug use; person-centred planning for people with learning disabilities; ‘sensible’ or ‘moderate’ consumption of alcohol and so on – the variety again not always adequately explained by the needs of the individual intended beneficiary. 

The metatexts certainly need interrogation and challenge and there are no doubt all sorts of opportunities to learn from unexplored and unexplained differences in ethos and approaches.  Such a multi-disciplinary community of inquiry would undoubtedly produce spaces for challenge, a welcome iconoclasm, new descriptive language, creative and original ideas, new intellectual fusions and opportunities to develop services that would be innovative in the context in which they were subsequently deployed even if they had an established track record elsewhere.  That would be worthwhile in itself.

But alongside these differences in ethos and practice, there may be a more troubling and depressing commonality between these different sectors.  Ethos and practice in all of them to varying degrees shows insufficient interest in the higher things of life: love, truth or beauty.  The effort to professionally correct or restore people’s humanity too readily ignores the most profound human instincts.  To take the example of homelessness services: Homelessness services have to some extent in recent years focused on people’s emotional needs for friendships, relationships or re-connecting with families and children but there is still much to be done, as there is much to be done in supporting the family life of prisoners.  Little or no attention is paid to spiritual needs or aspirations of homeless people, by contrast with prisons where mindfulness (meditation, yoga, spirituality) have become a more common though not wholly mainstream aspect of prison life.  Little interest is shown in the possibilities that creativity has for self-expression and building and re-building more positive personal and social identities, despite a long history of research and evidence about the benefits of arts therapies.  Positive psychology techniques like cognitive behavioural therapy which are now widespread in mental health services and have been tried (and criticized) in prisons have yet to become commonplace in homelessness services.  The expanding use of nature-based activities, like growing food or caring for animals, for promoting wellbeing has also not received much attention in homelessness services.  The growing debate about happiness and how it is achieved has also not found its place in any of these services, though it is hard to imagine worlds in which the question of what makes people happy could be more relevant. The ‘good lives’ model for ex-offenders seeks to address these larger, more fundamental questions but runs the risk of falling into the fallacy of beneficial action. Action may be merely consolatory; contemplation may be the route to the truer benefit of acceptance.

So there does seem to be an opportunity for new inquiry, insight and innovation, but not just by comparing closed, non-porous professional models. Instead the exploration would need to be into more universal and humanistic questions and the resonances and echoes of them found in this or that vale of tears.



No comments yet
Please signin to add a comment

Beethoven, Steve Reich and Gerhard Richter in HMP Whitemoor

Films Inside: Fatherhood in films at HMPs Brinsford, Featherstone and Oakwood

Hate crimes are not just about race and not just about hate

Tuning Up: Britten Sinfonia working with 30 prisoner and staff musicians at HMP Whitemoor

Life Beyond Crime: What do those at risk of offending, prisoners and ex-offenders need to learn?

Vanessa Bell at Dulwich Picture Gallery: Re-imagine artists responding to her work through textile printing

A lovely video inspired by the art of Louise Bourgeois made by Re-imagine artists at Tate Modern

Reflections on the Gilbert Collection at the V&A

V&A Colour Space in the Gilbert Collection of gold and silver miniature boxes – November and December 2016

Working together to improve criminal justice: Monument Fellowship launched

Prisoners making spectacles for prisoners

Growing Localities Awards Ceremony 2016 at the Horniman Museum

Homing retired greyhounds at HMP Littlehey

Durham University students studying with prisoners at HMP Durham

LSO musicians giving workshops at London special schools

Disabled adults making music with prisoners at HMP Bronzefield

Evaluating Social Action for Rehabilitation - Khulisa Rehabilitation Social Action programmes

The magic of making: Why art matters for prisoners

Relaxed Talk and Draw at the National Gallery - Week 2

Relaxed Talk and Draw at the National Gallery - Week 1

Resilient Resettlement project started

The Knowledge: Learning from London

Inside and Out: the experiences of LGBT prisoners in prison

Update: Access to the arts, galleries and museums for people with learning disabilities

Seminar: Music and orchestral activities in prisons and YOIs

Call for good practice: arts and homelessness

Growing Localities Awards Ceremony

Conference review: Empowering homeless people to make resilient and lasting life changes

Establishing dog training projects in prisons and YOIs

Online Training: Adult safeguarding in social housing

Landmark Supreme Court ruling for homeless people

UPDATE: Bringing Orchestras into Prisons and YOIs

UPDATE: Catholic prisoners' experience of Catholic ministry in prison

Gamelan performance with Good Vibrations

Improving access to digital technology for homeless and ex-homeless people

Growing Localities Awards celebratory event

Tate Local Network: learning disability

Brazil/UK Arts and Homelessness seminar: 'Why do we engage homeless people with the arts?'

The London Symphony Orchestra's Create programme for adults with learning disabilities

Adult Safeguarding in Prison

The Care Act 2014 and the voluntary sector working in criminal justice

Inspection of the treatment of offenders with learning disabilities

The Care Act 2014 comes into force

London Symphony Orchestra's work with special schools

Catholic prisoners' experience of Catholic ministry in prison

Intoart at the V&A

Heart n Soul at the British Museum

Good Prison - Seminar with National Museums Liverpool

Improving access to the arts, museums and galleries: seminar report

Resilient resettlement for ex-homeless people

Tackling forced labour in the UK: new project with Thames Reach

Supporting spiritual aspirations of people with learning disabilities: new collaborative project

NEW Research: Catholic chaplaincy in prison

Research launch seminar: Trends and Friends

Welcome to LiteracyActionNet

Grow Wild UK free seed kits

Heart n Soul: creative sessions for adults with learning disabilities

The Good Prison: expression of interest

FREE SEMINAR: UK museums working with prisons and young offender institutions

NEW PAPER: Re-imagine: Improving access to the arts, galleries and museums for people with learning disabilities

Improving access to the arts, museums and galleries: seminar report

Upcoming seminar: Digital empowerment of homeless and vulnerable people

Resilient resettlement for ex-homeless people

Exploitation and forced labour of homeless and vulnerable people: Briefing Paper

Museums and prisons seminar - 24 Feb 2015

Grow Wild UK to distribute free seed kits

Empowering homeless people through digital technology: report due early 2015

Tackling forced labour in the UK: new project with Thames Reach

Supporting spiritual aspirations of people with learning disabilities: new collaborative project

Growing Localities Awards 2014/2015 - NOW OPEN

'Quids In': building financial capability and confidence for adults with learning disabilities: new collaborative project

London Symphony Orchestra encourages adults with learning disabilities

Digital Empowerment Awards announced

Growing Localities Awards announced

Homeless and vulnerable people in forced labour in the UK: developing and disseminating good practice in prevention and casework

People with learning disabilities and museums, galleries and performing arts: re-imagining access and participation

Digital Empowerment Shortlist announced

New free website: Action Against Cruelty

Empowering homeless people through digital technology: literature review

New and improved LiteracyActionNet website

Research launch: Re-imagining Futures

Lost and Found: the Next Stage Begins

LankellyChase Digital Empowerment Awards Open for Entries

Lemos&Crane speak at Thames Reach Digital Empowerment seminar

Get Online Week and Digital Empowerment Awards

The End of the Chinese Dream by Gerard Lemos: paperback edition

Coming Soon: Growing Localities Awards 2013/2014

Coming Soon: Digital Empowerment Awards

Improving literacy outcomes for children with dyslexia/SpLD

The spiritual value of night shelters for homeless people

New research: Digital technology and homelessness

Action Against Cruelty

New report: 'Bad Weather, Good Habits: encouraging social housing tenants to save more'

Sex and Relationships Education for Adults and Young People with Learning Disabilities

Contact us
Read about us
Privacy and Data Protection Statement
Terms of use
Copyright © Lemos&Crane 2021