Helping hand that can turn lives around...

From left: Sacro CEO Tom Halpin and staff Fiona Zinkewycz, Kerry Page, Sharon Stirrat, Elizabeth Carmichael
From left: Sacro CEO Tom Halpin and staff Fiona Zinkewycz, Kerry Page, Sharon Stirrat, Elizabeth Carmichael

From mediation to one to one support, the Fife agency that can offer a lifeline to a better way of life ...

For the first time in years Lisa is finally off hard drugs. Addiction blocked out a number of issues, but it also led her into crime and saw her family ties all severed.

Service user Lisa and Criminal Justice Worker (SHINE Mentor) Leeanne Hughes

Service user Lisa and Criminal Justice Worker (SHINE Mentor) Leeanne Hughes

Now aged 33, she has turned her life around thanks to the support of Scottsh community justice organisation, Sacro.

Last week it opened the doors to its base in Hill street, Kirkcaldy, to show the vital work it does in our community.

Sacro provides a wide range of services spanning all aspects of community justice - from mediation to stop neighbour disputes escalating to youth justice and support for prisoners on release.

It also offers a Women’s Mentoring Service called Shine, and it was through this that Lisa was able to turn her life around.

Sacro literature on display at the recent open day

Sacro literature on display at the recent open day

She has been taking heroin since she was just 16, and had been in and out of prison over the years.

But,as she got older, she has found it harder to sustain her heroin addiction. Now she is determined to break the habit for good.

She said: “I want to get clean and change for the better. When heroin had a hold on me I ended up selling my furniture, my bed and cooker to pay for it.

‘‘I then turned to crime and was shoplifting to keep my habit going.

“I lived for heroin. I ended up having no contact with my family for five years.

‘‘They kept telling me I had a problem but I was sick of hearing this. I was hurting them but I had to feed my habit and I needed heroin to take my aches and pain away.

“I came from a strict Catholic family where nothing was talked about.

‘‘Things happened in my childhood that left me physically and emotionally damaged, but taking heroin helped me to block it all out.”

When she was 28 Lisa remembers her boyfriend asking her why she was using heroin as it was doing nothing for her and she said the message started to get through.

“Something just clicked one day,” she said. “I thought ‘maybe he is right - it isn’t doing anything for me’ but it had been my life for so long I thought it was normal. I thought I didn’t have a problem.

‘‘I needed to face up to my addiction and the consequences.”

She tried to deal with the problem by herself until she reached a point where she realised that, in order to beat her addiction, she needed professional help. She referred herself to Shine and met Leeanne Hughes, criminal justice worker.

Shine supports women on their release from prison. It also provides a mentor who helps women re-build their self-esteem and confidence as well as offering practical and emotional support.

The service is aimed at women over the age of 18 from across Scotland who are on remand, carrying out short-term sentences and not subject to statutory supervision. It is also offered to women subject to Community Payback Orders.

Lisa said: “I liked Leeanne immediately and she understood me. ‘‘When I got out of prison she was there to meet me and helped me to get bed and breakfast accommodation for two days before I got supported accommodation.

‘‘The day I got out she helped me with all my appointments.” She said: “That’s nearly a year since I have been with Sacro and it has changed my life.

“I’m back on a methadone script which I’m hoping to reduce next month. Heroin can take such a hold on you it’s horrendous and it takes months to come off it.

‘‘This time I am learning how to deal with problems rather than just turning to heroin to block them out. I’m looking forward to the day when I can be drug free and feel normal. I am determined to do it, I don’t want to go back.”

Leeanne said: “I’m really proud of her - she is exceptional. I know about her background and what she has been through.

‘‘I know it’s a struggle for her but she always picks herself back up. I believe in her and I think she will get better.”

Sacro also delivers Youth Justice Services

It offers a range of specific services to young people aged eight to 17 with the aim of addressing offending behaviour that underpins antisocial behaviour.

It is an alternative to the young person being referred to the Children’s Panel.

Malcolm Hamill, Fife youth justice support worker, toldthe Press about the case of 14-year-old John who was referred after he carried out an assault in Kirkcaldy.

As part of the programme work, Malcolm spoke to John about the offence and why it happened.

Malcolm continued: “We looked at how he could have made better choices as well as how the person he harmed was affected, how it impacted on John’s family as well as the effect on him.”

Restorative justice also involves bringing John together with his victim.

Malcolm said: “There is a lot of preparation work involved before this happens - we don’t want to set them up to fail. In this case we got the person who was assaulted to agree to meet John so he could explain his actions and behaviour, apologise and make amends. The person harmed explained to John how his offence had impacted on him.

‘‘He told him to listen to his mum and dad, who had been very supportive, and not let them down - he told John he has his whole life ahead of him.”

John’s dad said they had all been working together and that his son’s schoolwork had improved as a result. He hoped this might prove to be a turning point.

Tom Halpin, Sacro chief executive, said: “The open day is about showcasing the work we are doing in the community in Fife. It’s about enabling the staff here to share their stories with other agencies and other organsations that are doing similar work. It is also about the individuals receiving services and how they have been helped to make their lives better.”

He added: “The real success in the work we do and the most inspirational stories we hear are about those using the services and how they have changed their lives.’’