THE former trustees of Lincolnshire SNAC (Special Needs Accommodation Centre), a charity which provided residential accommodation for people with special needs, would like to respond to the comments made by Boston Borough Council leader, Peter Bedford in the Boston Standard (January 18).
The Prince’s Trust was, in fact, our major benefactor when a decision was taken in the early 1990s to give an extra dimension to the prison regime by providing quality Community Service Volunteer work to prisoners nearing the end of their sentence.
Carefully selected prisoners would assist with the gradual development of the accommodation centre and would support the special needs groups who would visit with their carers. In those days before Resettlement – which now allows real work for real wages in the community for serving prisoners – these low risk prisoners at the end of their sentences assisted physically disabled adults and children routinely in the community, and as visitors to the prison gym.
Governor of the time, Mick Knight, negotiated an agreement with the Home Office to lease six prison officer quarters which lay empty – unwanted by the officers who had been offered the option to buy, and unavailable to the civilian workers who, years earlier, had expressed an interest in buying.
A visit by the Prince of Wales, in 1992, was followed by a generous £30,000 grant from The Prince’s Trust, which provided enough to restore and develop the first pair of houses to accommodate 12 guests in six en-suite twin-bedded rooms.
Lincolnshire SNAC was officially opened by the Mayor of Boston in 1994 and until 2000 was able to operate as planned. Providing short break holidays for disabled people and their carers offered real respite to their families too. Prisoners’ involvement with the charity was often their only involvement with the general public.
The national success of the Resettlement programme, however, eventually resulted in too few remaining prisoners meeting the strict selection criteria to work for the charity. Also, the passing years brought changes of governor and management teams, people who had no direct association with the charity and who had their own targets and initiatives to address.
Nevertheless, driven now by a small group of volunteers, without active prison involvement, the charity continued to thrive, attracting visitors from all over the country. With small pots of grant money but mainly from its own resources, the charity gradually refurbished all six semis. To create additional space for our larger groups, and looking forward to an asset transfer agreement offered by the Home Office, we added a conservatory in 2010, not anticipating the series of events which was to persuade us to terminate our leasehold agreement and unwind the charity in 2011.
The much-improved facilities we returned to the prison on November 1, 2011, which will be reopened without undue cost to the taxpayer, will now provide a Resettlement Unit for prisoners.
We look forward to hearing from the Ministry of Justice regarding our suggestion that they consider a financial donation to a like-minded Lincolnshire charity.