Second chances for ex-offenders through education

About Us


To maintain and develop its projects The Longford Trust needs your help with funding. Please read all about our pioneering projects - our scholarships, our prize and our lecture - on this website. If you then feel willing to support us, please contact us at or by post at the Longford Trust, PO Box 64302, London NW6 9JP.

Cheques should be made payable to the Frank Longford Charitable Trust.  If you wish us to claim Gift Aid on your donation, please make sure to say so, and include your full postal address.

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An appeal for support for the Longford Scholarships

Rachel BillingtonBy Rachel Billington (right)

When my father, Frank Longford, was a member of the Garrick Club, the porter told me he could always identify my father's overcoat by putting a hand in its pocket and pulling out a bundle of letters from prisoners.

All my father's long life he was interested in the sinner and the underdog. I think he believed being the second led only too often to becoming the first. His interest in prisons and individual prisoners, which began in the 1930s and continued to his death at the age of 95, became his major cause. As a teenager in the 1950s, I grew used to nervous young men, sometimes with their even more nervous mothers, who didn't fit into the usual category of callers and in fact were people my father was helping after a spell in prison.

When I grew older, now and again I went with him to whichever prison he was visiting that week - for a couple of decades he went to two a week - and was duly shocked by the waste of life locked behind several clanging layers of doors. (On one more cheerful occasion we visited the so-called 'most dangerous man in prison' and I gaped while they fondly recalled a previous visit when they'd both displayed their skill at press-ups.) In a couple of novels, written in the 1990s, I tried to work out the alternative responses from society where murderers and those on a lesser scale of transgressions are concerned.

When my father died in 2001, family and friends set up an annual lecture in his memory on the subject of penal and social affairs. Three years later, however, despite the lectures' success, our director, Peter Stanford, and the rest of us felt that my father's real personal approach to prisoners and ex-prisoners also needed to be reflected in a different sort of memorial. The Longford Scholarships were born to offer financial and mentoring support to young serving- and ex-prisoners who wanted to continue their rehabilitation by studying for a degree at university.

As a young man my father had been a don in Oxford and he had never lost his belief in the value of education to set right those straying (or strayed) off the straight and narrow. There is, I'm happy to say, increasing provision for education inside prison - almost always the most civilised area behind bars - but we soon discovered that this didn't extend to ex-prisoners. It seemed that there was a real gap here.

A young man (or woman) who has used his time usefully in prison and has gained a more positive outlook on what are his capabilities will suddenly find himself outside in the wide world with no support to take him forward. It is probably the moment when a prisoner is at his most vulnerable and also, of course, at most risk of re-offending - not good news, I may add, for any of us.

The charity closest to my heart, therefore, is the Longford Trust, and especially its scholarships' programme, now running for over a decade. You can read more about it elsewhere on this website and learn how it has set up role models for other young prisoners, wanting to avoid re-offending and to rehabilitate themselves through education. At the moment around 70 per cent of 21-year-olds released from prison go on to re-offend. By contrast, over 85 per cent of Longford Scholars get their degrees, go forward with their lives, build homes, relationships, have families, and have no more dealings with the criminal justice system. Thanks to the scholarships, they have found a responsible place in society.