Banking on help

14 May 2019 | North West England

Hamera Yousaf

Offenders helped to reintegrate back into the community.

When you come out of prison it can be hard to start afresh.

Having worked for four years as in the probationary service, Hamera Yousaf saw first hand how tricky it could be for some ex-offenders to reintegrate back into the community.

Finding housing and new employment can be hard enough and not made easier by the lack of a bank account.

So when Hamera, 25, started a new job working as a banker for the Market Street branch of TSB in Manchester she knew she wanted to use her role to help support people get back on track with their lives when they left prison.

“I saw what was happening and did not think it was right. Everyone is entitled to have a bank account but it can be hard if you don’t have proof of address.

“I met up with some of my friends in the probation services and worked out what we could offer. You usually need a lot of documentation to open a bank account. But here at my branch we accept a letter of introduction from their probation officer.

“No-one should feel there is not someone out there to support them and getting a bank account can be one step towards feeling accepted by society again. Plus these days everything is online so they need a bank account to sort out their bills.”

Hamera, who joined TSB last September, added: “For me I feel like it might give them motivation in rebuilding their lives. And I also like to feel I am making a difference in my community.”

She is now in talks to develop some information packs which will be shared with those coming out of prison or doing community service to tell them what is available.

Hamera also does lots of voluntary work at her local mosque including teaching things like cookery and other home skills. She supports vulnerable women, mainly from ethnic backgrounds who have separated from their husbands and are living alone with children in sheltered accommodation.

Together, she shows them they can be self-sufficient and gain employment and is even helping one group of ladies to set up a small catering company.

The mum-of-one said: “I work with women who have left violent relationships and show them that they can build a new chapter in their lives. I try and build self-esteem and explain that there is help out there for them that will enable to make their own choices in life. But they are not alone.”

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