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The Oswin Project during lockdown

We are very much open for business, albeit working from home to protect our team, partners, and Oswinners.

It was very exciting to see Café 16 (our Café and bakery for staff and their visitors in HMP Northumberland) open and doing a brisk trade before the current restrictions came into force. The Oswinners (our clients) were flourishing and learning new skills under the supervision of our widely experienced Café manager Simon Tyler and assistant manager and baker Martin Winstanley. The atmosphere was wonderful and the sense of purpose tangible. Everyone who visited commented on the excellence and variety of the food produced, all of which was baked on site. We are very much looking forward to welcoming staff, Oswinners, and customers back to Café 16.

The Oswin Project is using technology to hold regular team meetings. We are doing our best to keep in contact with Oswinners, though this can be challenging. Before Easter a letter was written to all the Oswinners who work in Café 16, to wish them well and let them know how much we were looking forward to seeing them back in Cafe 16 when restrictions are lifted. Regular telephone calls are made, and emails sent to Oswinners who are back in the community. A database of hardship funds is being set up and assistance in accessing them offered. Inevitably, the challenges for Oswinners are increased by the current situation. Ex-offenders are seldom a high priority, but their needs are now being increasingly overlooked.

At the Oswin Project, we like to find solutions to problems, to turn problems into opportunities. The Government has indicated it will be releasing suitable prisoners, who are nearing the end of their sentences, to ease the overcrowding in HMPs. The NFU is concerned about the lack of seasonal workers to harvest fruit and vegetables. If this work could be offered to those being released it would give employment, purpose, and independence to those willing to be involved and ensure the produce was harvested. Personnel from the Royal Navy were designated to assist in HMPs and could be used to supervise and administer this scheme.

Many charities are struggling, overwhelmed by demand or because funding from outlets such as shops and cafes have had to close. At the Oswin Project, we are immensely grateful to the generosity and understanding of all of our funders and donors who remain supportive during this time.

We wish all our friends, colleagues and Oswinners the very best in the weeks to come and hope you will all remain well, safe and stay at home. We thank and applaud the NHS and the many, from teachers to truck drives, who are keeping our essential services going.

Please do contact us if you need any information, advice, help or support in the coming weeks.

The Oswin Project 07486364584

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