[Translation (French-English) : EPALE France]
Author : Hélène Paumier
ILOT is an association which works for the rehabilitation and reintegration of those rejected by society, and in distress. Among those whom it supports are people with criminal records (released from prison or with suspended sentences). EPALE France is working with ILOT to learn about the steps put in place for their reintegration, particularly the qualification-integration workshops.
What support is necessary for people on probation?
People on probation need a space to re-learn the necessary basic skills which will allow them to return to life in society and find employment.
At ILOT, we have identified three essential supportsfor people on probation:
- social support
- educational support
- professional support
To deliver this support, we provide our beneficiaries with three types of human skills:
- the association's employees (social assistants, specialist teachers, occupational integration advisers, staff from the catering centre on the Amiens construction site, business managers and other permanent employees, including the hospitality industry);
- specialised volunteers (teachers, recruitment professionals - HR and/or CIP);
- suppliers such as specialised trainers.
What does ILOT do to help with the reintegration of people on probation?
With five hostels in France, three integration building sites and three workshops awarding integration qualifications, ILOT handles almost 1,200 people every year, whether they are living in a CHRS (housing and social integration centre) or working in an integration workshop, and gives them social and educational support to help give them the means to find stability after a prison sentence or lack of security. The association's main actions are therefore helping to find accommodation, and access to employment and/or training. Created in 1969, the association has been recognised as a public service since 1998, and is a member of the Comité de la Charte, for donations made in confidence.
How does the association design and lead its qualification/integration workshops? What difficulties may be encountered?
The Qualification-Integration Workshop (AQI) arose from the association's desire to give the public which it supports the necessary basics for a return to life in society, and to employment. With the AQI, ILOT is gambling that by simultaneously offering global support with workshops addressing all areas, complete immersion in business and the possibility of certification (usually the first) to marginalised people and/or those remote from employment, and by giving them suitable resources and tools to prepare for this, it helps in the sustainable reintegration of these people, and the fight against recidivism of those leaving prison.
This is an innovative type of integration workshop (ACI), which has the ability to foster the social and professional reintegration of young ex-prisoners by following a training course leading to a catering qualification. The qualification is the professional title of Catering Staff (RNCP Code: 280). This project responds to the needs for training and qualifications for people who have been involved with the law, and promotes their professional integration by positioning them in a sector of activity in very high demand, in this instance mass catering.
ACI workshops have existed since 2009 in Paris, 2012 in Aubervilliers (93) and 2015 in Amiens (80). The people (three groups of 15 per year) are recruited in open-ended, part-time (26 hours per week) contracts, which last from 9 to 11 months. During this time, integrating employees alternate between periods of training in a partner training centre with periods of immersion in businesses and socio-educational support sessions at ILOT.
The first few weeks following release from prison are crucial, which is why the Association wishes to organise courses as early as possible to break away from the prison environment, develop mutual aid relations with other participants, change the image and regain self-confidence. A course at sea can also be offered with the association des amis de jeudi dimanche, (link is external), during which future trainees will find themselves in a group, far from the world in which they lived during their prison terms.
The workshop is presented as an airlock, or a gateway between life in prison to life in an open environment. It allows the people recruited at the end of their sentences to consolidate their reintegration project while benefiting from an adequate, regular income - indispensable when seriously considering a fresh start.
It means they will acquire, at the end of the course:
- greater personal and social stability:
- the resolution of personal difficulties, or the acquisition of greater autonomy and confidence in resolving them, together with identified resources or people;
- awareness of social rights;
- knowledge and respect of the rules of life in society and in business;
- professionalism: the development of expertise and knowing how to behave, the acquisition of a significant experience
- the professional title of Catering Staff, which is recognised and promotes lasting access to work: the title Catering Staff, Level V, is issued by the Ministry of Labour.
So far as difficulties encountered are concerned, our action is sometimes affected by delays in the processing of records of application for the reduction of sentences, despite having very good links with our partner, the prison administration service. Other difficulties relate to the pace of the project, which is based on alternance, and does not necessarily follow a consistent schedule, which is not always easy for people who have been deprived of their liberty for a long period. This demand on our teams requires consistent vigilance in order to motivate the group over time. Finally, training is not always easy for those who have mainly known failure at school, even if they generally express the desire to be trained so as to get out of their situations.
What feedback on the AQI project can the association give today?
We have initiated a process of assessment of the project's social impact in 2016, thanks to the support of the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation, in order to measure the impact of the AQI project as well as to conceptualise it.
The preparatory phase of this study has allowed the definition of the following eleven themes, which respond to the actual support provided by the ILOT teams, and about which the people have been interviewed during the study: rights & initiatives; employment; behaviour & social codes; budgetary management; relations with the law; basic knowledge & FLE (speaking French as a foreign language); health and addictions; housing; self-esteem; family relations and activities; & social connections.
During the study, it seemed to us that the motivations of those joining our integration site through training varied from one person to another: interest in catering, obtaining a qualification, reducing the prison sentence, etc.
Despite these differences, it seems that the AQI experience enables everyone to jump-start a change in their life journey, because it gives them a new professional or personal awareness.