Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEE 2016-17: Sallyann manages the Parenting Programme Project at HMYOI Brinsford, and is Commended for the enthusiasm, energy, commitment and care she brings to all aspects of her role.
Sallyann Ploughman is the Parenting Course Programme Manager at HMYOI Brinsford (on secondment from Staffordshire County Council), and the enthusiasm for her work shining forth from colleagues and young offenders, as well as their partners and relatives in the community, suggests two generations of direct positive impacts: on the young parents in her programme and on their children.
Nominator Jo Geoghehan, Brinsford’s Partnership Lead, remembers that when Sallyann arrived, “she made an instant impact and nearly two years later has the same enthusiasm, energy, commitment and care that makes working with her an honour and a pleasure.”
Sallyann’s work offers a bespoke parenting programme for young adults. A partnership between the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), Staffordshire County Council’s Troubled Families Team and Brinsford, the programme works with young men in custody, offering bespoke intensive one-to-one support and paired-up sessions for the participants, together with support for their families, both before and after release.
“Sallyann has worked hard to develop an effective programme which provides young fathers or expectant fathers with a unique opportunity to express themselves as parents and not merely as young offenders,” says Jo. “Participants are supported to learn valuable skills for interacting with their children, developing and maintaining positive family ties, providing alternative strategies for challenging situations both inside and outside of prison, and promoting empathy through an understanding of the impact of their actions on others.”
Additionally, Sallyann’s work with the mothers of offender’s children in the community “has had a significant impact and combatted issues both financial and emotional.”
“However”, says Jo, “Sallyann has delivered much more than this…and it is hard to express her worth. When we discuss difficult young men or young men in crisis here at Brinsford, we often think to refer them to Sallyann. Sallyann will spend time talking to any young man we refer and will often engage with them in such a way that we can identify their issues and have a chance at sorting out their anxieties and reducing the stresses of being in custody. Sallyann does not care if they fit any criteria or if she will be working with them long term, she will always talk to anyone she is asked to and find out what she can do so that we can help them. In this she is unique!”
Professor Rosie Meek of the Royal Holloway University of London has evaluated the programme, and found Sallyann was instrumental in its success, noting that “her particular way of communicating with the young adults had a positive impact when explaining concepts that may be hard to digest.”
Quoting from Rosie’s report, “The helpfulness, understanding and kindness of the facilitator was striking in the interviews as something which the majority of the participants noted and valued. When describing the most useful part of the programme, one young father mentioned his one to one sessions, commenting, ‘I never found a kinder and more helpful person than Sallyann.’”
Jo adds that “this view is mirrored at all levels around the prison. One Governor described her as ‘priceless’, whilst some officers on the wings have explained how she has helped young adults and reduced tension.”
Sallyann has also forged useful partnerships in support of the programme, including Bromford Housing, Stoke College, and the excellent new charity, Give a Book.
“In short, Sallyann is simply the best!”
Deborah Edwards, Head of Corporate Services at Brinsford, notes that Sallyann’s programme “is not just about parent craft but encompasses the emotional upheaval of becoming a father particularly when separated. She works ‘through the gate’ with the mothers of the children of these young adults.” Deborah calls her “an inspirational person, who quietly and unassumingly impacts on the lives of everyone she meets. She epitomises all that is central to rehabilitation – she cares passionately about her work and all the young men at Brinsford and their families.”
Deborah describes Sallyann’s “fundamental belief that people can change” and says she “will look for the positives in all, focusing on these positives to help people start to believe in themselves. I have seen significant changes in many of the young men in our care who previously have provided the most challenges – and watched them respond to Sallyann which has resulted in them growing and maturing as individuals.”
Deborah adds, “I have been proud to be part of the end of course presentations and have been moved to see how some of the most disturbed and damaged young people in our care respond to Sallyann’s approach which genuinely focuses on them as individuals and her belief in them – something few of them have encountered in their lives before.”
Praising Sallyann’s “wonderful ability of making people feel comfortable”, Deborah says “she listens without judging and guides people without making decisions for them. Sallyann cares so much about our young adults it is almost as if she has a huge extended family of young men! She understands them, has an insight into their issues which is extraordinary and most of all believes in them and inspires the rest of us to believe in them as well.”
Deborah points out that Sallyann’s actions “will have an impact on the next generation as these children will benefit from her intervention with their parents.”
Other colleagues are effusive, too. The Head of Reducing Re-offending simply says, “Sallyann is amazing.” While a Treatment Manager describes her as “Sweet, bubbly, motivated and enthusiastic about the lads she works with – she is a lovely lady.”
A Deputy Governor says “she is passionate about her work and the most caring person I know. In times of pressure Sallyann always inspires me to remember why I do this job – and that is to make a difference to the individuals in our care.” A People Hub Manager adds, “warmest, kindest lady I’ve ever met, always makes time for everyone, always glad to help.”
One prisoner, Jaden*, calls Sallyann “bang on!” He adds, touchingly, “She’s very helpful and made me realise the responsibility of being a parent and not to be negative whilst inside prison. She fills me with positivity and is a credit to the Prison Service. She gave me the umph and motivation to make something of myself… Along with many prison staff she has helped to make the person I am today but she’s been the biggest influence of everyone that has helped me.”
Deborah McKay, Brinsford’s Deputy Governor, writing on behalf of the Governor, says of Sallyann, “She is a fantastic example of how one individual’s approach can help young people change and mature… She is a great example to us all.”
Sallyann herself says of the Programme that “one of the great things is that the lads get to realise that they are not the only ones struggling with lack of contact with their children, the breakdown of relationships with their partner, or missing birthdays and Christmas and not being able to comfort an ill child.”
She tells a poignant story:
“Recently a young offender who I had worked with in 2014 was released, I had kept in contact with him and with his partner who I had worked with in the community. The young woman’s previous partner had been in prison, her brother was in prison, the young man I worked with was in prison, and her next door neighbour was in prison (who incidentally I also worked with after she recommended me to his Mother). They were in an environment where most of the people they knew had been ‘inside’. We worked hard on communication, expressing feelings and building on their strengths. They told me that if they had not managed to change the way they communicated with each other or empathise with what the other was going through they would not have made it. I am so pleased that they stayed the course: they have completed the Prince’s Trust Business Programme looking to run their own catering business, and in the meantime the young man is working as a welder – and with much gratitude to the Mother’s Union, I managed to get them a holiday in Britain at a holiday camp – the first holiday they have had.”
As Sallyann notes, “many of the young men I work with are care leavers – who have few family ties. They are often a ‘hidden’ minority with no voice.” That said, as those young fathers start their work as parents, they’re now much better equipped to change that story as a result of Sallyann’s programme.
* Name changed