Glebe House: Friends Therapeutic Community Trust
Glebe House in Cambridgeshire does internationally renowned specialist work with teenage males with sexual issues, often victims and/or offenders. They are referred to Glebe House by local authorities or the courts. They come to the Trust as some of society’s most vulnerable people, often because of learning difficulties, multiple care placements or a history of childhood abuse. Through a two to three year programme of training and personal development, many go on to become active and productive members of society. There are up to 14 participants at any one time.
Glebe House was set up in the 1960s as a "therapeutic community for the treatment of children and young people who are unstable and maladjusted and in need of assistance".
Several Quakers played key roles. Probation officer Geoffrey Brogden saw the need for such an institution through his work and raised the question with other Friends. Psychiatrist David Clark was busy changing the local hospital’s way of working, opening locked doors, and empowering staff and patients. He could see the power of “living and learning” together, and enjoying leisure activities together, and he had a significant role in establishing the model of work at Glebe House. Educationalist David Wills had much first hand experience of therapeutic communities in practice.
These three were among the first Trustees, and ever since then Quakers have served as trustees, usually seven or eight at any one time. They are offered training and each of them serves in turn as duty trustee - visiting Glebe House monthly, undertaking the required statutory checks and being available to listen to staff and residents.
The house holds three community meetings a day that are attended by all the residents, and run by a ‘resident chairman’. At any one time, there are four of these. They go through a three-month probationary period and holds the post for six months. It can be an incredible experience, according to Peter Clarke, Director. "It allows them to be responsible for day-to-day management. As with any group of young people, the more the individual feels they have ownership, the more stable the community is." A resident chairman presides over each meeting, which sets appropriate boundaries.
"We operate within boundaries that can be shifted rather than rules that can be broken," says Clarke.
Glebe House also includes its young people in recruitment of staff and an interview panel always has a resident chairman on it. The high level of participation at Glebe House means it does not have issues such as absconding, according to Clarke. "These young men are moving into the adult world, so it is important for them to feel they are taking charge of their own lives," he says.
Glebe House puts into practice therapeutic community principles – communalism (living and working together), permissiveness (difficult issues can be explored, though boundaries have to be set), reality confrontation (facing up to the impact of destructive behaviour) and democracy (how to contribute to a consensus, and abiding by decisions taken). Together these provide a safe environment for the exploration of difficult issues to support change and pro-social behaviour. Trustees, consultants, staff and residents all create a partnership with a culture and value system that is expressed through these four cornerstones.
The effectiveness of Glebe House is demonstrated by
- Repeat referrals and regular recommendations from a growing base of local authorities
- Growth of demand, leading to expanded community outreach consultancy services and new facilities (Eastwood Cottage in Bury St Edmunds, which helps with the transition to the wider community).
- Long serving staff and consistency of personnel working with residents
- Longitudinal independent research
All residents are involved in a piece of academic research, which is collecting data over a ten year period and feeding findings back into practice.
In 2009 OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education) the regulatory body, said:
“The overall rating is outstanding. Being healthy, staying safe, enjoying and achieving, positive contribution, achieving economic well-being and organisation are all rated outstanding”