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The Safer Living Foundation

Lynn Saunders, Belinda Winder and Kerensa Hocken describe the Safer Living Foundation's sexual crime prevention initiatives

The Safer Living Foundation (SLF) is a registered charity, established in 2014 as a joint venture between Whatton prison, Nottingham Trent University, the National Probation Trust (Nottinghamshire) and Nottinghamshire Police. Our charitable objectives are:

  • To promote the protection of people from, and the prevention of, sexual crime.
  • To promote the rehabilitation of persons who have committed, or who are likely to commit, offences, particularly sexual offences against others.

The SLF was the first organisation to run Prison-based Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA); these were standard CoSA but they started within the prison, several months before a prisoner’s release. This ensured the prisoner had support during the difficult transition from prison to the community. The SLF also run community based CoSA and, in 2017, started a CoSA for young people who have engaged in sexually harmful behaviour. The SLF won the Corbett Award for Prisoner Rehabilitation in 2014, and the Guardian Award (with Nottingham Trent University) for Social and Community Impact in 2016.

Safer Living Foundation’s Prevention Project

The charity recognises that people can be prevented from committing a sexual offence if the right help is offered at the right time. In response to this, the SLF are commencing a prevention project that will provide a free treatment service for individuals who are concerned that they may sexually offend.

In order to ensure service-user involvement (a principle which underpins all aspects of the SLF work) the charity undertakes regular project consultations with a group of 6-8 current prisoners to ensure they get input and guidance from the people who matter – people who have the ‘lived experience’ of committing sexual offences. These people (together with the growing evidence base on factors linked to desistance) are a huge help in ensuring the service is fit for purpose.

The Nottingham specialist treatment centre

The project will run from a specialist treatment centre in Nottingham city centre (though the service will be open to people from any area who are willing to travel). The centre will be managed by a multi-disciplinary team of treatment facilitators, psychologists and psychiatrists, all of whom are experienced in working with people who have committed sexual offences. The treatment centre will be similar to the Prevention Project Dunkelfeld in Germany, which, since 2005, has been successfully working with people who are concerned they may be at imminent danger of sexually offending.

The project will offer a group based intervention using third wave CBT methods, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT). It will address the dynamic risk and protective factors associated with sexual offending and help participants flourish and thrive; for some that will involve having to accept and live with their sexual interests.  The service will also offer some individual work, as well as medication to manage sexual arousal for those clients who are sexually preoccupied. Evaluation is built into the service plan to monitor and assess the intervention.

The charity is also in the process of scoping other projects which meet our charitable aims  including a drop-in centre in Nottingham for ex-prisoners (a form of Citizens Advice Bureau meets café meets job centre), and an accommodation project to provide people with sexual convictions access to safe, decent and enabling housing.

About the authors

Professor Belinda Winder is a Professor in Forensic Psychology, and Head of the Sexual Offences, Crime and Misconduct Research Unit (SOCAMRU) at Nottingham Trent University. The unit conducts applied forensic research of international importance, primarily in the field of sexual crime. The unit has a strong ethos of service user involvement in its work. Belinda is a co-founder, trustee, Vice Chair and Head of Research and Evaluation for the Safer Living Foundation (SLF).

Kerensa Hocken psychotherapist

Dr Karensa Hocken

Dr Kerensa Hocken is a chartered and registered forensic psychologist. Kerensa is a recognised expert in working with people who have committed sexual offences and was awarded the Princess Anne award for excellence for her work in 2016. Kerensa is the director of Freedom Psychology Ltd, a preventative treatment service for people who have unwanted sexual thoughts but have not offended, and co-founder, trustee and clinical lead of the SLF.

Lynn Saunders is the Governor of Whatton Prison and has worked with people convicted of sexual offences for most of her career. Lynn was awarded an Honorary doctorate from Nottingham Trent University in 2015 in recognition of her work with this group of offenders, and an OBE in 2017 for public and voluntary services to prisoners in the UK and abroad. She is co-founder and Chair of the SLF.


Back to: SPECIAL FEATURE: StopSo tackling sexual abuse in the 21st century

This article is part of a special feature section produced with the organisation StopSo, looking at the issues raised by working with both sex offenders and survivors. Views expressed are those of the author not UKCP.