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28 Feb 2014

Willowdene Farm Exhibit Day in partnership with West Mercia Probation Trust

An award-winning farm project in West Mercia, which helps people who have been in trouble with the law to lead crime-free lives, will be celebrated at an exhibit day on Friday (28 February).

Scores of people have benefited from taking part in activities at Willowdene Farm, in Shropshire, receiving training, and practical work experience in areas such as animal care, horticulture, forestry, welding and cooking.

The project, run in partnership with West Mercia Probation Trust and Rite Social Enterprises, provides a community alternative to prison sentences. Statistics show that people given short prison terms are more likely to reoffend than those handed community sentences.

Instead of being sent to jail, service users at Willowdene Farm earn qualifications by undertaking 25 activity sessions, aimed at promoting and encouraging a purposeful crime-free lifestyle in a working society.

They also take part in weekly one-to-one sessions to address issues in their personal lives that can lead to offending.

Aimed at people who are deemed to be at the highest risk of reoffending, the scheme has returned impressive results. Of those who took part in activities during 2011-12, 70 per cent remained crime-free in the three months after their involvement with Willowdene Farm.

Last year, the project was honoured in the Howard League for Penal Reform’s Community Programmes Awards, which recognise the most effective and innovative crime-cutting schemes in England and Wales.

It was awarded the runner-up prize in the Howard League’s education, training and employment award category.

Journalists who attend the open day will be able to interview a man who has completed the programme, as well as hear presentations by speakers including David Chantler, Chief Executive of West Mercia Probation Trust; Dr Matt Home, Director of Willowdene Farm; Philip Dunne, MP for Ludlow; Bill Longmore, West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner; and Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform.

Catryn Yousefi, Programmes Manager at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The work of this project is rooted in a recognition that employment, education and training are key factors in achieving the over-arching aim of reducing reoffending and protecting the public. The project brings together services to deliver the best in purposeful and practical training, enabling service users to address their needs and move away from crime. Successful programmes such as Willowdene Farm help to show that robust community alternatives can continue to achieve many more positive outcomes than prison sentences. I am delighted their valuable and commendable work is recognised by our award.”

Dr Matt Home, Director of Willowdene Farm, said: “Innovative programmes in partnerships are able to unlock the potential of people who have been in trouble with the law.”


  • David Chantler, Chief Executive, West Mercia Probation Trust
  • Frances Crook, Chief Executive, Howard League for Penal Reform
  • Philip Dunne MP, Member of Parliament for Ludlow & Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology
  • Dr Matt Home, Director, Willowdene Farm
  • Bill Longmore, West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner
  • A service user

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  2. Each person taking part in the project completes 125 hours of skills training, cognitive development and work-focused activity spread over 25 sessions. Following an introductory session held at the Probation Service, attendance at the farm is weekly for the first two weeks and becomes twice-weekly thereafter.
  3. The Howard League for Penal Reform’s Community Programmes Awards were launched in 2005 as part of the charity’s aim of increasing public and government support for community sentences. For more details, visit

Further information

Rob Preece
Press Officer
Tel: +44 (0)20 7241 7880
Mobile: +44 (0)7714 604955
ISDN line available on 020 7923 4196 – uses a G722 system

For enquiries outside normal office hours, please call +44 (0)7918 681094

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