'Language for Change'


The Bell Foundation is, through its three year ‘Language for Change’ programme, seeking to contribute to reducing the re-offending rates of ex-offenders and prisoners who have English as a second language through removing the language barrier to re-settlement.

Our pilot phase

Prior to the launch of the ‘Language for Change’ programme The Bell Foundation completed a pilot phase in 2014. This included scoping activities, the commissioning of small scale research and the trialling of projects and partnership. Key findings from the pilot phase are outlined in detail here, and  include:

  • Language and literacy needs are common amongst many prisoners and ex-offenders, regardless of first language.
  • There are few statistics and little information available about prisoners and ex-offenders with English as a second language. This makes it hard to plan for provision for this group.
  • Prisoners and ex-offenders with English as a second language are a diverse group with diverse needs, which need to be addressed with tailored solutions.
  • The pilot phase identified a need for context appropriate ESOL materials for use in prisons. The Bell Foundation’s continuing partnership with British Council is addressing this, with resources for those teaching ESOL in prisons available here.

The ‘Language for Change’ programme

Based on the learning from the pilot phase, The Bell Foundation launched its ‘Language for Change’ programme in May 2015.

The programme aims to contribute to reducing the re-offending rates of ex-offenders and prisoners with English as a second language through working in partnership with other key stakeholders. We aim to do this by supporting work which falls under either or both of the programme objectives:

  • Developing and trialling language based interventions for ex/offenders or those working with them, which will help ex/offenders with English as a second language to better access education, employment and re-settlement support.
  • Building and sharing knowledge about the impact of and removal of the language barrier to rehabilitation.

The Bell Foundation works in partnership

The Bell Foundation works in partnership with charities, social enterprises and university departments to achieve the objectives for ‘Language for Change’. Our partnerships on this programme typically include the provision of a grant for up to three years, and support to plan, evaluate and disseminate learnings from the work carried out.

The call for proposals for the ‘Language for Change’ programme closed on 31 May 2015. So far two partnerships which contribute to the above objectives have commenced:

St Giles Trust is scaling up their ‘Peer Advise for Foreign National Prisoners’, through which prisoners are trained up to NVQ Level 4 to support fellow prisoners who are foreign nationals and have English as a second language.

Hibiscus Initiatives is providing language and holistic support to their target group: migrant women in the criminal justice system.

Further partnerships are currently under development.

Although the call for proposals on the programme formally closed in May 2015, we are always interested in hearing from organisations which can make significant, scalable and sustainable contributions to the ‘Language for Change’ objectives. We are open to considering approaches on an on-going basis from those with innovative ideas and those with whom we could link our existing work. Please contact us on info@bell-foundation.org.uk.


Evaluation is important to us and an integral part of our approach. The Bell Foundation’s programmes and partnerships are externally evaluated by Cloud Chamber Ltd. Cloud Chamber Ltd supports our partners from the early stages of project development, to make sure that information which indicates the success of each project can easily be collected.  You can read about the evaluation framework here.