Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice

JANET LOCKHART (HMP Kennet)

JANET LOCKHART (HMP Kennet)

AWARD WINNER 2011-12: Janet works for Manchester College as a Lecturer at HMP Kennet. Through her efforts she has significantly enhanced the educational provision for prisoners with dyslexia, ADHD and related issues, becoming an expert in assessing and addressing complex learning needs, and working tirelessly to raise awareness of such issues across the prison. She has also developed links with outside agencies to help ensure that prisoners’ needs continue to be met on release and enhance their chances of finding employment. (On behalf of The Bromley Trust, Janet is also awarded the “Keith Bromley Award for Education and Skills Training”).

IN THEIR OWN WORDS

[Janet Lockhart gives her account of the work for which she won her award]

When I first completed my Adult Dyslexia, Diagnosis and Support postgraduate certificate, for which I paid for myself as my then employers would not pay for the course , this was to help the prisoners who were attending education but were having difficulties with the work that they were been set. When I moved to HMP Kennet in 2008 there was no provision for prisoners with a learning difficulty or disability.  We therefore went back to the grass roots and followed the process of a prisoner from being arrested to being released and looked at what support if any had been given and how we could introduce safety nets to support them whilst they were in prison.

The factors for the success of the LDD provision within HMP Kennet have been many, yet we have had some barriers to overcome and some we are still working on.

Many people ask what does it matter if ‘they’ (prisoners) are dyslexic they still know what they are doing. Melanie Jameson works alongside the MOJ developed a form for offenders to complete to identify what difficulties they had encountered when they were in the process of being charged with their offences in the police station. Completing a statement when arrested can be traumatic to most people but to someone with dyslexia it is harrowing.

Process:

  • You are charged with …………. on …………. at approx ………  They may not be able to understand what they are being charged with.
  • When they are being interviewed they may get things mixed up, I went left down the road, when they meant to say right.
  • I met George at 10.00 at the Lion pub in Seven Street when it was the Lion pub in Steven Street.
  • What were you doing on the ….., they may not be able to remember what they did that morning let alone a few days or even weeks ago.
  • They may have got the sequence of events in the wrong order, which could impact on them being convicted of something they did not do.
  • You have made this statement now read it through and sign it, they may be unable to read what has been put down and won’t admit this and sign something that may be incorrect.

These are just a few examples of how things start to go wrong, when you don’t understand what is been asked and you cannot read what has been written.

By the time prisoners reach HMP Kennet they are on the last part of their sentence, whether it is a six month or six year sentence and had usually not received any quality support in the full length of their sentence.

They reach us with information on them because they have been ‘trouble makers’ throughout their sentence, not because they are bad but because they put up a pretence because they are unable to do something, so acting the fool detracts from the problem.

Many people within the prison service and supporting agencies did not know the relevance of dyslexia, ADHD and other forms of learning difficulties and how they impact on prisoner’s everyday life. I therefore worked with my line manager Marie McLelland to set up a focus group of staff from all areas of the prison and five prisoners to discuss the difficulties that arise within a prison setting and how we could overcome these.

One of the main areas was communication, information was not been shared across the partnership agencies so therefore  prisoners were not given the support in interviews, time scales for things to be completed (courses that need to be completed prior to their release).

Firstly, I organised staff development for 11 members of teaching and uniformed staff for the CfBT course Dyslexia in Different Contexts, this was a free course which enabled staff to gain the equivalent of a level 2 in dyslexia awareness.  Staff were given a full days training followed by 5 assignments.  I set up a drop in centre with laptops in the training room for staff to come along and complete the assignments with full support.  We had nine passes out of the eleven, the remaining two moved prisons so did not complete. This allowed us to set up a network through the prison in supporting prisoners with dyslexia.

By completing the training it opened up the support system within Kennet.  The two officer that took part in the training one was from the Care Team which deal in some cases with offenders becoming disruptive, Jay was able to help if was related to dyslexia and support them on the wings.  Mark was part of the PASRO team and works as part of the drug team, again this enabled him to support prisoners with the work they were set on his course. The rest of the team are based within the education team and this allowed us to give support on a 1:1 basis.

I have set up a working relationship with all partnership agencies allowing a two way conversation on prisoners who need support.  This has impacted on the way that prisoners react and we have seen some reduction in prisoners been placed on report.

I have completed the Hidden Difficulties training which was given by Dyslexia Action and I then completed the Train the Trainer course.  This allowed me to train staff from 15 prisons on the Hidden Difficulties questionnaire.  The questionnaire is a formal assessment that can identify indicators of dyslexia, ADHD, Dyspraxia and Aspergers and whilst they are only indicators it does give us some basis of the support we can offer.  As this is now run around the prisons in the NW we can cut down the number and information as each prison will send on the prisoners information as they change prisons.  This cuts down on the length of time and support can be continued without any breaks.

I have completed training on Irlen’s Syndrome which allows prisoners who have a difficulty with light perception to have a formal assessment and be issued with an overlay that is suitable to their difficult.  We have also a very sympathetic option who will also allocate tinted glasses.

I have recently completed training awareness on Irlens Syndrome to 10 prisons in the North west which has allowed formal assessments to be completed.

We had one young prisoner that had seen his uncle hang himself and this had a devastating effect on him.  He came into Kennet after having completed a very stupid and unnecessary crime these were his words.  I was asked by his probation officer John if there was anything I could do to help him with his stammer which had only presented itself after the hanging event.  His parents had been concerned with this and had tried to get him to see a specialist but he had always refused.

I spoke to Paul and asked if he would like us to see if we could get some help for him whilst he was at Kennet, he was amazed that anyone would be bothered with him.  I sourced funding from the Head of Learning & Skills within Kennet and contacted a speech therapist..  Paul had 6 visits with Jacquie and he had developed enough confidence to keep his stuttering to a minimum.

He had asked his parents not to attend the prison for visits as he wanted to surprise them, they were upset at not seeing him but agreed.  His first visit without a severe stutter left his parents in bits they were so shocked that it took a prison sentence to help their son.

We have support many prisoners with ADHD and have funded assessments for them, this has allowed them to follow a path that is suitable for their learning in both a practical and theory setting.  It has allowed them the confidence to talk and be heard rather than to run around causing trouble and ending up on report.

We have also completed 4 full dyslexia assessments after funding was gained, this has helped prisoners to gain additional exam time and support on their release as they can access Access to Work funding.

All of the above identifies the good practice that has developed since 2008 at HMP Kennet and the prisons in the Northwest.  Without the network within Kennet and other prisons, prisoners would still be struggling with basic information and ending up in trouble.

We have had some good feedback from OfSTED on the LDD provision at Kennet and I received the Butler Trust Award as well as the Keith Bromley Award so we must be doing something right.

[In September 2013 Janet Lockhart provided an update on the work for which she won her Award]

Since receiving The Butler Trust Award and The Keith Bromley Award in 2012 I have worked on several key issues within The Manchester College and HMP Kennet to promote LDD issues and also Equality & Diversity.

  • The Manchester College have committed itself to developing the LDD provision in all its Offender Learning establishments by introducing a number of positions to support offenders.

LDD Managers who work with LDD staff and senior managers to enable new strategies to be developed and funding to be accessed.

I have worked closely with Margaret Dadd and Liz Palmen on the training for the Inclusive Champions within the NW region.   Inclusive Champions are now in place in each prison and will work closely with offenders to move them forward from isolation to inclusion within education departments and allow them to progress on through the gate to employment.

I have completed Hidden Difficulties Training to a further group of staff in 15 prisons within the NW of England and will be completing more in the NE and also Kent and Sussex.  This will enable staff to be trained in identifying indicators for dyslexia, ADHD and other areas.

We have looked at differentiation in the way we teach in the classroom as one size fits all does not always work.  This was an area we looked at when completing the HDQ training to show how people with different specific needs learn in different ways. This proved very interesting with the delegates as we put them in situations that where not natural to them and looked how they overcame the difficulties.

I will also be completing further Visual perception awareness training to staff within the prisons in the NW of England.

I have also worked alongside The ADHD Foundation and delivered to their conference a talk on how ADHD can lead to people coming into prisons because of their actions.

We currently have two offenders with hearing impairments and I have been asked by my manager to see if we can get access to a loop system via the prison. I have just spoken to Robbie Durgan who is the Deputy Manager and he has given the education department the loan of a £15.000 loop conference centre and also 4 portable loop systems to support offenders within education.

The Education Manager at HMP Kennet has been very proactive in developing a more effective induction process which meets the learner’s personal needs in respect of any LDD issues. One to one interviews are conducted upon commencement of all programmes to enable realistic targets to be defined and agreed with individual learners.  Training needs have been addressed and several staff have completed the HDQ training.

  • Further investigation can be completed by the Inclusive Champion and Learning Support staff will assess the needs in more depth and support offenders throughout their time at Kennet.  This has been very effective with offenders completing exams and diplomas that they thought they would never achieve. This has promoted a high standard of Equal Opportunity & Diversity within the whole of HMP Kennet.

We recently had a OfSTED inspection and HMCIP inspection at HMP Kennet and I was discussed with the Deputy Gov. Robbie Durgan about the outstanding work I had contributed to within the prison.  A more effect networking system has been set up to include all areas of the prison and beyond in supporting offenders.

I work closely with Brian Cockayne who is the Toe By Toe co-ordinator for the prison and I have completed two waves of training for mentors in Kennet.  These skills can be taken to other prison which allows support for non readers.

I have worked closely with the Reading Group who attended the education department once a week to work with offenders from non-readers to more competent readers. They have since lost the funding to attend Kennet but I have worked alongside John who is a mature offender (75 years old) who has taken up the reigns and now runs a reading group each evening on the wings.  John is also a Toe by Toe mentor.

  • Both myself and Scott Boal (Butler Trust commendation award) were contacted by The Manchester University last year to look at completing a study for suicides within Prisons.  This was a result of our Butler Trust Awards.

The study will look at the reasons for suicides within prisons and she has asked if she could attend Kennet as it has not has any suicides in the 61/2 years that it has been open.

I have been asked to attend a conference on suicides alongside our Safer Custody officer and Gov. Quilliam who has experience within in the field.

If funding is gained then it is expected that the information will be used globally with recognition to The Manchester College and HMP Kennet for their participation.

  • We received a visit from Malcolm Butler to look around the establishment, unfortunately this was on a Friday afternoon when all classes are closed.

INSPIRE ARTICLE

[The following article appeared in issue 4 of the Butler Trust’s magazine, Inspire]

Janet Lockhart has won a Butler Trust Award for her work as a lecturer at HMP Kennet, where she has dramatically improved educational provision for prisoners with dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and related issues.

HMP Kennet opened in 2007 – the first public sector establishment to be commissioned in 15 years – and reducing reoffending has always been top of the prison’s agenda, as has creating a culture of support for offenders across the establishment. Employed by Manchester College, Janet’s determination and dedication has seen her dramatically expand her role, something that has involved investing a substantial amount of her own time.

Having previously provided literacy and numeracy support in other prisons, she joined Kennet as a basic skills tutor. However, her awareness of the wide range of issues that might determine a prisoners’ ability to learn soon led her to become frustrated, and she enrolled on a dyslexia awareness programme, paying for the course herself.

‘I started in the prison education service in 1999 and when we used to do assessments for dyslexia it was a case of “fill this sheet in” and that was it,’ she says. ‘No one ever did anything with it. There were no trained staff, and no money to train the staff – there was no formal work at all. So I took the bull by the horns and did the adult dyslexia diagnosis course.’

She followed this with a postgraduate certificate in adult dyslexia, diagnosis and support, and now provides a full assessment service for offenders who present with possible dyslexia. If confirmed, she’ll work closely with the prisoner to make sure they’re fully supported.

She has since become an expert in assessing and addressing a range of complex learning needs, and has campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of these issues across the prison. She has very close links with the Merseyside branch of the ADHD Foundation, and works to make sure that prisoners with ADHD have their needs recognised.

‘The ADHD Foundation come in and do assessments for us, and then we set up structured learning,’ she says. ‘We talk to the prisoners – not just as someone who’s got ADHD but as a person – and we look at how they learn best and try to encourage them. Once they’re released they’ve got to manage their own learning and their own life, so we try to do it on that basis, rather than say “you have to do it through this strategy”. The offender is the centre of it, and we always listen to what they’ve got to say. Many of them have gone on to achieve qualifications for the first time in their lives.’

She has also established a regular timetable of visits from a speech therapist, which has boosted people’s confidence ‘incredibly’, along with their speech, and there are close ties with Working Links and Jobcentre Plus. ‘We do night classes, including one with the resettlement team, so if they’ve got anyone who needs to do a CV or fill in a form and has difficulties, they come down to me and I’ll support them.’

Working Links also functions as a very effective ‘carrot and stick’, she says. ‘It’s a matter of “you show me that you’re committed to doing something when you’re released, and I’ll get the full assessment for you.” We’ll work together to get them on to the college courses and the job interviews, but they have to show some commitment. And they do.’

Her one-to-one support has been a key factor in persuading many prisoners to re-engage with education, helping to dramatically boost their self esteem. ‘We don’t segregate them from everybody else, but if they need additional support they’ll come in with me,’ she says. ‘If you treat them as a person, you’ll get so much more from them. I’ve got one lad who came into the prison and wouldn’t do his initial assessments – he looked at them and just panicked. We’ve had a full dyslexia assessment done – we paid for that – and he’s just doing a level 2 diploma. He’s doing so well, and he’s got so much more confidence.’

A crucial element is diffusing any tensions and inbuilt resentments from the outset, she stresses. ‘When they first come in for the initial assessment form we’ll take the wind out of their sails,’ she says. ‘If they say, “I’m not doing this” we just say, “That’s fine, we’ll do it another time, and we have got support for you. ”The anger goes out of them straight away, because no one’s ever done that with them before. The whole place has changed.’

There are now around 60 inmates receiving extra support of various kinds, she says. ‘That could be Skills for Life support with literacy and numeracy, or it could be just going out and having a chat with them. We’ll support them all the way through. We’ve really noticed a difference with their exams.’

She maintains close links with offender supervisors, and holds workshops to spread awareness of the issues across the prison. She has also trained a number of prison personnel – senior officers alongside education staff – in dyslexia awareness and related topics. She also provides assessment for Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome – a visual perceptual disorder which can affect a person’s ability to read – and has delivered training on implementation and use of the ‘hidden disabilities’ screening questionnaire on dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD to 15 prisons in the north-west. ‘That encompasses anything at all that would hold an offender back from doing things on their release,’ she says. Her work has now been recognised as national good practice.

So was there any initial resistance from the prison? ‘Not at all,’ she says. ‘At Kennet we’ve got a very good working relationship with the governor – we can access all areas of the prison, whether it’s probation, the offender management unit or healthcare. We’ve got support from the gym if people with ADHD need additional gym activities – they’re all so supportive. We’ve had amazing support.’

The impact on reoffending is too early to quantify, she acknowledges. ‘But one man just said to me if he didn’t have this assessment done, he wouldn’t have got as far as he has. It’s changed his whole attitude – he’s doing a diploma and he’s going to go to college.’ What are her aims now – how would she like to see all of this develop? ‘Well, we’d like to see this rolled out across the whole of the north-west, and the whole country. We’ve set up a learning difficulties forum group for the whole of the north-west, and if someone’s transferred from Kennet to Garth, for example, we’ll send all their information over, so that tutor doesn’t need to go through all that information building again. They can then follow that up with the learner.’

Winning the Butler Trust award will be a major boost in terms of raising awareness of these issues, she says. ‘I’ve let everyone know who’s on the training with us, and said “this is the way forward”. When I first started if you had ADHD or a learning difficulty it was a case of “get to the back of the class”. People say to us that they were thrown out of the class at school, they say “I was told I was no good when I was younger, so I believed it.” ‘You go into some prisons and it’s the same now, so someone has to stand up and say, “no, this is how it should be – can we do this?” That’s what we’ve done, and we’ve had some tremendous outcomes.’

• On behalf of the Bromley Trust, Janet is also awarded the Keith Bromley Award for Education and Skills Training.

For more information: contact HMP Kennet

Top of the page