July 28, 2023

CWCDA support helps DWRM to help more students in prison

A Kineton-based business which supports prisoner rehabilitation is expanding its reach and growing its influence following support from Coventry & Warwickshire CDA.

Many people in prison had negative experiences in the education system in their early lives. These experiences often masked an intellectual ability which was denied the chance to flourish by a lack of opportunity to pursue university level education.

This, in turn, denied them access to professional roles in which they can engage in policy making and wield an influence on the very systems that contributed to their disadvantage. DWRM (Doing What Really Matters) sets out to break this vicious circle and enable these voices to be heard.

DWRM Consultants was set up in the belief that education is central to prisoner rehabilitation. Its two executive directors, Ruth McFarlane and Daniel Whyte, have extensive experience in the sector and had developed an ambitious plan to increase the number of students accessing Further and Higher Education in prison to 25% of the prison population within 10 years – an increase of 20,000 students.

The company incorporated as a Community Interest Company in July 2020 with support from Coventry and Warwickshire CDA (CWCDA) and funding from the Coventry and Warwickshire Business Support Programme. CWCDA, who were funded at the time by the European Regional Development Fund and Warwickshire County Council, provided support throughout the start-up process. The focus was on business planning, the theory of change, social impact measurement and support for funding bids.

CWCDA also supported the incorporation application to Companies House and the Community Interest Company regulator. Following incorporation, further support has been provided in relation to corporate structure, Corporate Social Responsibility, commercial contracts and employment policies and procedures.

Based in Kineton, DWRM are now providing professional support and challenge to universities, working closely with His Majesty’s Probation and Prison Service (HMPPS) and the Ministry of Justice to ensure a high quality of educational support for students in prison. Other partners include His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, Westminster University and Maximus.

Services have now expanded to include workshops for staff and students, pre-employability skills training and post release support to enable people leaving prison to access university, training courses or employment.

DWRM currently has six members of staff and has ambitious plans for expansion. They have recently signed an agreement to receive £150,000 of social investment funding from the Big Issue Growth Impact Fund.

Demand for higher level education in prisons has never been higher but, to date, the options have been quite limited. Currently about 1,500 people in prison (out of a population of 82,000) are studying for a degree. Evidence from the Prisoners’ Education Trust indicates that people who study at a higher level while in prison have much lower re-offending rates than those who do not, leading to significant cost savings for the taxpayer, as well as individual benefits.

“Ever since I started studying, my mental health has improved dramatically,” said one prisoner. “My tutors have been incredibly helpful and I am enjoying working on my assignments.”

DWRM, supported by CWCDA, aims to open those doors for many more people in prison.

DWRM Executive Director, Ruth McFarlane said: “We really appreciated the support from Andy at CWCDA to guide us through the early days of incorporation and help ensure that we had a really strong basis to start our business.”

Andy Wynne from Coventry and Warwickshire CDA said: “It has been a pleasure to work with such an innovative organisation and to watch the business take off in such a promising way.”


Image of DWRM Undergraduate Prospectus 2022-23

This article can be found through Warwickshire Means Business

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