COMMENDEES 2013-14: ‘Together Women Project’ Coordinator and Custodial Manager: for contributions to the resettlement of female prisoners.
(This Commendation is supported by the Wates Foundation.)
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
[Joanna Smith gives her account of the work for which she won her Commendation]
Together Women Project was commended by the Butler Trust in 2014 for developing a womens centre in HMP New Hall. This was an innovative way of delivering gender specific services for safe integration into the community. A very proud achievement for the project.
TWP (Together Women Project) have had a presence within HMP New Hall since 2007 and this holistic approach to reducing re-offending was proven to be so successful, however, due to capacity it was felt that the lone worker would not always be able to meet the needs of all the women. It was from this that the link worker and Custodial manager decided to create a women’s centre from an unused cabin to better meet the needs of the women and provide support covering a larger discharge area.
The women’s centre was launched in 2012 with many partners and organisations in the community keen to engage with the centre and offer tailored support. A timetable was produced on the recommendations of the women and what they felt would be beneficial and agencies undertook security clearance to allow them to move around the prison freely.
It took a substantial amount of preparation to ensure we were creating a safe and comfortable space that would achieve the best outcome in the resettlement of the women. We considered the following;
- The décor of the building – we attended the community women’s centres to grasp how they created the space and ensured that our women centre remained a non-disciplined environment where possible.
- The feedback from our residents – what they felt was important for them to succeed in their journey and how we could address their needs.
- The discharge areas of our women, to ensure the agencies were able to work with the woman pre-release and build up rapport and engagement on release.
- The safety of staff, organisations and the women – the security of the prison and always adhering to the prison regime.
As the centre has become more self-sufficient in its day to day running we have been able to focus our attention on delivering group work and facilitating forums to keep abreast with current themes and issues. For example, we have seen a rise in the amount of women who have been trafficked. We were able to bring these issues to the front of peoples attention and find out what the women feel is their greatest barrier in accessing support ie, police, location. This has led to a petition being put in place to make sex workers safer on our streets.
TWP manage the centre by co-ordinating the support, monitoring need, outcomes and continuing to promote the centre to ensure its success. All the governors at HMP New Hall fully support the centre and its development and are incredibly keen to ensure its growth and expansion. The relationship between TWP and operational staff is positive which is also key to its success. It is also encouraging that we have been approached by other establishments and there is now the potential to role this model out nationally.
[The following article appeared in issue 6 of the Butler Trust’s magazine, Inspire]
For their exceptional ‘drive, commitment, creativity and ability to get things done,’ custodial manager at HMP and YOI New Hall David Wetherill and Together Women Project worker Joanna Smith have also been commended.
Together, David and Joanna have set up a female focused drop-in centre, which has been running for the last 18 months. Before this, the resettlement needs of the women at New Hall were often greater than the capacity of the service. The thought was to harness the success of the women’s centres that many major towns and cities had and bring it into New Hall.
Taking it upon themselves to renovate and furnish the centre by negotiating with and getting support from a number of departments and managers, the centre was ready to open by January 2012. Joanna and David then had the task of filling it with service providers, which at first proved a struggle due to its location inside a prison.
They looked for local service providers who were specialists in providing women-specific services, ‘embracing the very ethos of partnership working’. Described by colleagues as both having ‘a natural flair for working with partners to achieve outcomes,’ they both ‘relentlessly attended third sector networking events’ to bring providers in – where New Hall had previously been difficult for many agencies to access, it was now offering to security clear providers and allow them to conduct business from the drop-in.
David organised the security clearance and key talks for the agencies so they could access the prison independently, while Joanna devised a referral route and monitoring system to ensure that all women were offered the right support. She then completed a complete care plan for each individual and referred them on to the agencies at the centre.
Each had ‘slightly different roles’ in setting up the centre – but worked together at all times to find creative solutions to problems. With David acting as a ‘genius networker and partnership worker,’ he worked to realign systems within the prison to support the centre. Joanna’s ‘excellent record keeping, service reviews and community follow-up’ have informed David and herself, helping them to create ‘an oasis in the heart of the prison with no uniformed presence’.
Providers are now actively asking for access. There are 35 different agencies using the centre, including solicitors, housing providers, sex work projects and accommodation services. The number of women leaving New Hall without accommodation has dropped from between 20-25 per cent to 10-15 per cent, and a new service for sex workers has been established with through-the-gate support.
‘They have transformed the resettlement service provision, allowing service providers to work with women before release to build up trusting relationships that support continued engagement after leaving New Hall,’ says Diane Pellew, Governor of HMP and YOI New Hall and Askham Grange.
For more information: contact HMP and YOI New Hall