At AIR Network we believe that everyone has the right to a second chance, in reality, anyone can make mistakes, fall in the with the wrong crowd or make poor choices that unwittingly end up life changing. We recognise that many of the issues that are barriers to a happy and fulfilling life are often the same or similar as the side effects of not having a happy and fulfilling life. Often, many of our service users are trapped in a self repeating cycle of substance misuse, poor physical and mental health, offending and unemployment. Unemployment and offending often create hopelessness and poor wellbeing whilst poor wellbeing and hopelessness often contribute to unemployment, isolation and offending. 

At AIR Network we see the potential of the person, not the issues that limit them.  We engage, and support hundreds of individuals every year, we don’t see labels; addict, offender, unemployed, low achiever, we see potential, strengths, goals and aspiration, Breaking often long term cycles of offending, negativity and substance misuse is far from easy and requires a solution, sometimes every bit as intensive and long term.  

12 months ago AIR Network developed the “AIR Way” our approach to seeing, valuing and supporting the individual at AIR Network. This approach sets out how we as a team have consistent values, methods of work and share a similar organisational approach to delivering services. The AIR way is a three pronged approach to providing support which is inclusive, motivating and developmental and underpins our theory of change model and pathways to reducing reoffending. 

Attitude

The AIR Way begins long before we engage with service users, with our team.  Often, the first engagement with a service user will shape the strength and direction of the relationship, a bad first impression and the chance to engage with the individual may be lost, damaged or delayed. Backed by AIR Network’s core values, clear objectives and a strong organisation mission, staff attitude is the foundation upon which the AIR Way is built. Our team are specifically selected because they share our key values in working with the individual. Believe that everyone can change;  this short statement underpins the purpose for our existence, from this starting point be positive, don’t judge, believe in what you do, take pride in your work, give your best, be patient, show you care and always be prepared to go the extra mile. 

Behaviour

Having the right attitude is only the first part of talk the talk and walk the walk, interacting with individuals and having them believe in you as much as you believe in them is the key to our highly successful engagement and mentoring process. At AIR Network we don’t see engagement as a bench mark of success. To be successful, engagements also have to be engaging, with service users seeing the value in the continuation of the relationship and what you have to offer; every session we deliver we aim to leave the service user wanting more and looking forward to the next engagement.  Engagement must be honest, focused and have purpose, delivered with energy, respect, understanding, positivity and a friendly professional warmth, people know when you genuinely care.  An underlying principle of our support is that everything should be done with the full collaboration of the service user, our personal support plans provide service users with full ownership of their support and the direction they want to go in. 

Actions

Lead by example, if we want service users to have confidence in us as workers, then we must give them something to be confident in. Trust, once lost or broken or not gained will determine the success of any relationship with a service user, if they don’t believe in you or what you have to offer then we have failed as workers. Do what you say will, don’t promise what you can’t provide, deliver everything you promise. Be flexible, provide support when the individual needs it, not when we want to provide it. Service users will have a complex combination of physical, mental and emotional needs, support must reflect this, working with clients on wellbeing, happiness and positive attitude alongside practical support such as employability, recovery and offending will go a long, long way. Go the extra mile, all of our staff will answer calls out of hours and support service users when other support is closed for the day, this is crucial in helping foster our caring, responsive and approachable AIR WAY.

Have we succeeded

In 2019/20, we worked with almost 650 individuals and delivered over 6500 face to face mentoring sessions and almost 13,000 telephone out of hours mentoring calls. We also delivered over 500 wellbeing sessions. As a result of the intensive support provided, 90% of our service users achieved outcomes against their personal action plan, 64% achieved an ETE outcome,  over 90% of service users with a housing problem achieved a housing outcome and over 84% identified an improvement in their mental health.

Our focus on supporting improved health, wellbeing and transferable skills also saw significant gains for service users; our wellbeing questionnaire conducted at 10 weeks with service users saw significant improvements across all indicators, including resilience, dealing with problems, positive attitude and relationships and large self reported reductions in alcohol and substance misuse and offending. 

As an organisation, we are delighted with the first full data on the impact of the AIR Approach, even more so we are delighted that its introduction has had such a dramatic impact with our service users, we look forward to developing it further and following its ongoing impact on service users.