Digital intervention to address substance misuse and offending behaviours

A unique programme is being launched by Interserve’s Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) that uses modern technology to help service users tackle substance misuse.

Breaking Free Online is an accredited digital treatment and recovery programme for people with issues associated with drugs, alcohol and offending behaviours.

One of the key advantages that Breaking Free has over previous programmes is its use of technology and the internet.

The programme was developed by a team of clinical psychologists and behavioural scientists who pooled their practical experience to create the intervention. It is completed in a group setting at probation offices and consists of 11 sessions – but crucially participants can log onto the programme whenever they wish using an App they can download on their mobile phones.

Interserve runs five CRCs that provide rehabilitative services to low and medium risk offenders. The company also delivers interventions – such as Breaking Free – to offenders supervised by the National Probation Service (NPS).

Ian Ware, Head of Practice for Interserve’s justice business, said: “We are proud to be the first probation service to implement Breaking Free because it has the chance to develop practice in innovative ways and to support people on probation to make lasting change.

“The programme’s use of online materials, audio and video means people doing the course can access it whenever they feel they need support. The content will also suit a wider range of learning methods.”

Interserve is running the course in its Cheshire & Greater Manchester and Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Companies. Service users from the NPS will be the first to enroll on Breaking Free when it starts later this month (August).

Glyn Davies, Breaking Free’s Service Development Director, said: “We are excited to be working with Interserve and have been impressed by how the company is committed to trying new ways of working with service users to help them make positive changes to their lives.

“Breaking Free harnesses the power of modern technology in a way that hasn’t been done before in the criminal justice system. The programmes include a full voice over, so that people with poor literacy don’t face added barriers to successful completion.

“Previous interventions for drug misuse have stubbornly high attrition rates. We wanted to create a course that worked and is suitable for people with different learning styles.”

The flexible programme addresses the links between substance misuse and crime. Breaking Free has already been successfully used by prisons and other community-based organisations.

Kerri Bendon, Interserve Development Manager, said: “I am delighted the NPS expressed a commitment to innovation by investing in this Accredited Programme. Breaking Free will count towards an individual’s Rehabilitation Activity Requirement days.

“Service users participate in the course at designated probation offices as part of a group programme on equipment we provide, but they can then access it via an App whenever they feel the skills, learning and content will be most helpful to them.

“The fact they can use it when they need it most, potentially to prevent relapse or to remind themselves of key coping strategies, makes this a really valuable intervention.”