Get help from CASS+
As a repeat offender, or someone who has discovered yourself on the wrong side of the law without really knowing how it happened
Finding yourself caught up in the court system, whether as a defendant (first time, or repeat offender), a witness, or a victim, or if you are taking someone to court yourself, the whole setup can seem intimidating. CASS+ can help you and your family.
CASS+ is very experienced at helping people through, ensuring that forms are filled in correctly, and process is followed in the right order. We can advise on court protocol, and prepare clients, so that they’re aware of what to expect, and how to address court officials. Although we are based in Magistrates’ Courts, we can support people in Tribunals, Crown and County Courts too, if requested.
We have strong links with many support organisations, and can help you with:
Many people come to us at their wits’ end, overwhelmed by their circumstances, generally at a point of crisis in their lives. Sometimes the help we give them can be as simple as foodbank vouchers to feed their family until benefits arrears are paid. For other people we liaise between several parties, for example to work out debt payment plans, housing solutions, or ensure that a person has a job to come back to.
We are not a box-ticking, official organisation. We will think creatively, and can find non-standard solutions to problems which may have stumped the client, and other organisations they have approached.
Have a look at some case studies to see more about the work we do with clients, to see whether we might be able to help your situation. If you’re not sure, contact us anyway. If we can’t help you ourselves, we’ll probably know someone who can!
Offering a grant of up to £1,000 to four families facing severe and multiple disadvantages, with an aim to improve their lives. CASS+ worked with these families for a year, encouraging them through difficult times, and working to ensure they completed the programme, and arrived at the end with positive outcomes.
1 A single parent family with a young teenage son. Some of the money was spent on improving their environment, with a landscaped garden, new carpet, and new washing machine. The son now has an apprenticeship, and their mental health has improved so much that they do not need CPN any more, just general reviews with their own GP.
2 A family with a terminally ill mum and four children. A new laptop and school uniforms were bought, and swimming lessons for the family. Dad was supported into full time employment, and is working towards a GNVQ in Mechanics, which will enable him to provide for his family once mum has passed away.
3 A Polish family where the husband is serving a prison sentence and with the wife (a non-English-speaker) and two young children left at home. Part of the grant was spent on English lessons for the mum, who can now speak good English. Part was spent on driving lessons for her, and she has now passed her driving test. The husband is now out of prison, and CASS+ continues to support the family and both parents are now in employment.
4 A couple in their seventies who were left homeless due to their son-in-law’s debt and conviction. A new home was secured with the help of CASS+, as well as a weekend away – quality time! The couple went from talking about taking their own lives to living life to the full.
Court staff referred a dyslexic defendant, Mr M, to CASS+ for help completing his means form. It emerged that he had significant debt problems and if convicted of drink-driving, was in danger of losing his job and becoming homeless. Mr M’s employer, Mr W, visited the CASS+ office, and with CASS staff acting as a go-between, Mr W agreed not to fire Mr M and to assist him with his debt repayments. CASS+ staff helped Mr M apply for the drink-driving rehabilitation course and in using a payment card to repay his court fines.
Mr M contacted CASS+ again when he received a letter claiming he had not repaid his fines. Since CASS+ staff had assisted him, we were certain that he had made regular payments. Enquires with the court office and subsequent investigation revealed it was a clerical error and payments had indeed been made.
A fortunate side to this was that whilst checking his bank statements Mr M found that he had been a victim of fraud himself, with unsolicited withdrawals being made from his bank account, and could investigate and stop this recurring. Mr M maintained his employment, with support from his employer, and has not returned to court.
Mr S came in to the CASS+ office explaining that he had just been released from prison and would like to sort out his benefits as he was due to start employment the following day. Mr S explained that it was the first and last time he wished to be in the criminal justice system, and struggled to make eye contact. Mr S was also not local to Plymouth, he had no money, or food, and was in crisis. We completed a food bank voucher so Mr S could receive some food, and completed an application for an emergency welfare fund. This was successful and Mr S received £90 to support him whilst his waited for his first payment from his employers.
Unfortunately, soon afterwards, CASS+ received news that Mr S had been a victim of a serious assault, with Mr S’s emergency welfare fund money being stolen. Fortunately, Mr S reported the incident to the police and had been given a crime reference number. Mr S was clearly traumatised by this experience, and refused to go back to his supported accommodation, where the assault had taken place, which resulted in two breaches of his tag. The assault also had an impact on Mr S being able to start his employment. Mr S came back in to the office and explained that he was feeling extremely down, and suicidal, due to the circumstances. He went on to say that he wanted to rip his tag off and go back to prison as at least he would get fed and would be safer.
Mr S explained that he just wanted to be transferred to his hometown, near his family, to start afresh, which included looking for employment again. After a phone call to his offender manager, located in his home town, we got agreement to consider a transfer, with his offender manager undertaking an assessment regarding his housing as well as putting this up for authorization from the governor of the prison. We arranged for his benefits to be set up to following day, and supplied him with another food bank voucher in the mean time.
The outcome was that the transfer was authorized by probation and the governor, resulting in Mr S returning to his home town to stay with his family, girlfriend and children. Mr S’s benefits were sorted out although he is actively looking for employment. Mr S gave positive feedback regarding the support CASS+ had provided him and thanked us on many occasions. Our timely support helped Mr S to navigate a difficult time, re-connect with a supportive family and relocate back to an environment that he was more familiar with. His mental health and welfare were greatly improved as a result and, arguably, he was diverted from further criminal behavior.
My son was sent to prison and I have custody for my son’s two boys – 4½ and 18 months. At the time I was severely stressed out, looking for work and struggling for money – to pay for the boys and travel to prison to see my son. CASS+ put me in touch with Plymouth Options and gave me food vouchers for the Food Bank as well. They helped me to find nurseries and contact numbers for childcare – I wouldn’t’ have had a clue about that. They helped me so much.
I don’t think I’d have coped – I thought I’d have hit rock bottom – I kept going to the CASS+ team. In the early days, I was receiving these letters from my son in prison telling me he was self-harming and that his bed was full of blood and trying to hide it from the guards – threatening to kill himself. I took it to CASS+ and asked them what to do. They told me to go back to solicitors and demand some help. As a result of that they put him [son] on 24-hour watch. I feel like I might have lost my son without that help.
They still support me, phone me to see how I’m getting on, they are so nice and make you feel so relaxed that it’s easy to share what the problems are and they help you to sort out the problems one thing at a time.’
This lady is still looking after her small grandchildren. She is a quiet and unassuming woman who is stronger than she realises! She has developed good links to childcare networks through the nursery groups and has re-connected with CASS+ on occasions when she is unsure of how to support her son and his children in his absence. She has learned to manage her time, and to keep herself well and healthy in the face of her very busy schedule. She has more confidence to help support her son whilst he is in custody and has learned to cope with the stigma surrounding his situation.
Mr A was referred to CASS+ by the District Judge for support with accommodation issues. His Landlady was refusing to do necessary repairs, meaning that his flat was covered in damp and mould, and had no heating facilities, which was having a negative impact on his physical health. He said that he could no longer remain in the flat that had been his home for seven years, as it was affecting his mental health. He felt ‘stressed out’ most of the time and was using alcohol as his coping mechanism. Mr A recognised that he is alcohol dependent and had made the first step in working towards addressing this by self referring to Addaction. He had his first appointment that week.
Mr A had received a letter from SW Water to say that he owed them just over £11,000. He was quite distressed about this as he believed that all of his bills would be included as part of his tenancy. Mr A stated that there is a water leak but his Landlady had refused to get this repaired. CASS+ supported Mr A to call SW Water to try and arrange a manageable repayment plan, but they required the leak to be fixed before such a plan could be arranged. They did, however, advise that he should contact the Council to report this as his Landlady has a legal obligation to get this repaired.
CASS+ arranged for Mr A to return the following week to complete a Cornwall Homechoice application for social housing, which he did, and is now confident to navigate the Homechoice website and bid for properties that he is interested in. He also attended his first Addaction appointment, and will continue to work with them to address his alcohol use.
Hi landlady had received a letter from the Council regarding the condition of his flat, and work was underway to redecorate bedroom, bathroom and hallway, as well as to improve the heating. The water leak was still a problem, and he was advised to contact the Council again regarding this, and CASS+ will be keeping in touch with him until this it is fixed, and his other issues resolved.
Mr T was a young man appearing in Community Court on a drink related charge. He has a record for court appearances but had not presented at court for a period of approximately 2 years.
The Magistrate challenged him about his alcohol misuse, as many of his previous offences had been alcohol related. He declared that, though he had previously struggled to get help he was now engaged with appropriate services. He also told the Bench that he was shortly to go into the army. He received a Conditional Discharge.
CASS+ followed this young man out of court, as there was something about his response to the Bench that didn’t seem right. Once outside of the court room he was extremely agitated and upset. We challenged him regarding his alcohol support and he admitted that he’d fabricated that, because if the court had insisted on him engaging with alcohol services, it might have prevented his entering the army. In this event, the fact that he’d received a Conditional Discharge instead of a fine, which he’d been expecting, was going to affect his application anyway! When asked why he hadn’t explained this to the Magistrate he replied that there were people in the back of the court and ‘he didn’t want everyone knowing his business.’
We took him to our office and contacted the Army Recruitment Office (who knew that he was in court). They confirmed that a conditional discharge would mean his application would be delayed by a year, but that a simple fine would not complicate matters. We contacted the legal adviser team who re-opened the case in the same court sitting. The Magistrates heard the detail and re-sentenced him to a £60 fine, or one day in custody, which he was deemed to have served.
He left the court and went straight to the Army Recruitment Office, where has was able to process the rest of his application to sign up. This was a young man with the potential to re-offend without some structure in his life. He had been brought up in the care system, with no family support, and he had made real inroads to gaining meaningful employment under his own steam. This case study demonstrates the need for a sign-posting service away from court sittings and outside of the austerity of a court room.
Ms J was brought into us by a friend who heard about us through the Probation Service. She was in an incredibly emotional state and was very overwhelmed by a lot of debt and financial strain. The fact that she also had three children to support added to the stress, especially since her ex-partner had stopped paying towards them. We calmed her down and gave her reassurance that we would help her chip away at these issues so that they become more manageable for her. We made a referral to Money Advice Plymouth and said we would also do some research around child support matters. She left with a food voucher and with a feeling of relief.
Our first follow up call with Ms J was very positive. Her meeting with Money Advice Plymouth went well and she now has the confidence to phone the companies that she has debts with and arrange payment plans. She has also now been medicated for depression and is coping with life better. She also contacted the child support agency on the back of the information that we gave her and is waiting for them to get in contact.
Through her involvement with CASS+, Ms J is in a much better place and has gained the confidence to face her debts head on.