Posted 16 Mar 2018
Shelter hero receives Butler Trust commendation
A Shelter charity worker who brought folk-music to people in prison is celebrating today after winning a prestigious award for her work in preparing prisoners for life in the outside world.
Rachel O’ Connor, from Lymm, received the Butler Trust Commendation for leading a rehabilitation project at housing charity Shelter which helps ex-offenders find a settled home and prepares them for a successful and crime-free release back into society.
She received the award from Princess Ann at St James Palace in London this week, one of only 19 Commendations to be made from hundreds of nominations across Britain.
Rachel’s ground-breaking work started when she decided to “do something different” to help the women at HMP Styal in Cheshire and men at HMP Risley in Warrington.
She built peer networks and set up training and support for the women, building up their confidence and ability to access housing and other public services.
And she even took acclaimed singer-songwriter Frank Turner onto the wings to engage prisoners via their love of music. Some later took up instruments and began writing their own songs. “It made me feel human again”, said one member of the project.
Accepting the award, Rachel said: “My aim is to help people to create a stable and independent life for themselves on the outside, which ultimately reduces re-offending and benefits everyone in society. I’m overjoyed that this has been recognised by the Butler Trust.”
Shelter’s Transforming Rehabilitation Contracts Manager Sarah Cooke, who nominated Rachel for the award, said: “Rachel’s has been pivotal in helping women gain settled homes in their community for the first time in years, and has shown what it means to help prisoners realise their potential and rebuild their support network on the outside, to help steer them to a better future.”
Simon Shepherd, Director of the Butler Trust, said: “It’s easy to forget that there’s an unsung army of people behind the criminal justice headlines. Every day, these hidden heroes do remarkable and inspiring work on behalf of the public. Our winners show the very best of this sector – and that’s very good indeed.”
· Shelter helps millions of people every year struggling with bad housing or homelessness through our advice, support and legal services. We campaign to make sure that, one day, no one will have to turn to us for help. For free and independent advice from Shelter visit: https://england.shelter.org.uk/get_help
· Shelter runs the rehabilitation service Through the Gate in partnership with the Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company.
· HRH The Princess Royal has been Patron of the Butler Trust since it was founded in 1985, hosting the Trust’s Annual Award Ceremony and visiting many of their award winners and commendees in their places of work afterwards. Named in memory of former Home Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Foreign Secretary, R. A. (Rab) Butler, Baron Butler of Saffron Walden, the Butler Trust Awards are the most prestigious awards of their kind, and recognise and celebrate outstanding practice by people working in criminal justice settings. The awards are judged by an independent panel made up of Butler Trust trustees, and current and former prison and probation staff. For more information, please contact the Butler Trust office on 020 8688 6062.
· Frank Turner is an English folk singer-songwriter from Hampshire. He began his career as the vocalist of post-hardcore band Million Dead, then embarked upon a primarily acoustic-based solo career following the band's split in 2005. In the studio and during live performances, Turner is accompanied by his backing band, The Sleeping Souls.
Images A rights free, high res image of HRH The Princess Royal presenting Rachel O Connor with her Commendation can be found on her winner’s page from Friday 14 March: http://www.butlertrust.org.uk/rachel-oconnor/
Other rights free images from the award ceremony are on the ceremony webpage: http://www.butlertrust.org.uk/awards-ceremony
[NB left-click on a picture to expand, then right-click to save]