Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEE 2016-17: Sian, a painting, decorating and tiling Instructor at HMP Ford, receives a Commendation for the dedication, skill and compassion she shows in all aspects of her work.
Sian Hawes is a multi-skills instructor at HMP Ford whose inspiring dedication to her work has consistently impressed everyone from visiting Ministers and Governors to the prisoners themselves.
Nominator Roger Powell, Head of Reducing Reoffending at HMP Ford, and Sian’s Line Manager, reports that, as lead instructor for painting and decorating skills, “an increasing number of her students progress into paid work placements while at Ford, and several have entered full time employment after their release.”
He praises Sian’s “high level of personal commitment and motivation, which she is adept at passing on to students on her courses,” describing “an exceptional individual in a prison which has many high performing members of staff.”
She is, says Roger, “an excellent example of the very best type of individual who works with offenders to help them make a change in their lives.” An important part of Sian’s success, he adds, lies in “her ability to inspire the men to do more and give them confidence in their ability and potential and to change for the better.”
Deputy Governor and Local Butler Trust Champion, Esther Dainton, agrees, and points out that Sian “has high expectations of her students and supports them in every way possible to achieve their goals. She has attended the external graduation of one of her students and sourced the funding for his robes and travel expenses. She was so proud of him on the day, and he commented to me that she was one of only a few people that had ever told him he was ‘worth anything’. As a result of her support he began to believe in himself and be proud of his achievements for the first time in his life.”
She describes Sian’s “enthusiasm and passion for her work” as “infectious” and says that “she truly is an ambassador for the Prison Service and Novus” [the large social enterprise provide training and education to over 65,000 people in over 100 organisations in the prisons sector].
When Michelle Jarman-Howe, Deputy Director of Custody, saw Sian’s workshop, she said she wished she could clone Sian and put her in every prison in the country, a view reiterated on a visit by the then prisons Minister, the Rt. Hon. Andrew Selous.
Esther notes that Sian “makes a difference to offenders lives and opportunities. This is an easy thing to say but I absolutely believe that offenders who have worked with her will remember Sian for many decades after release as the person who was pivotal to their resettlement goals,” and points out that “The fact that she herself never highlights the extent to which she goes a considerable way beyond the requirements of her post, nor the additional work that she carries out in her own time, is testament to her unassuming nature and desire to have the focus on her students rather than herself.”
The offenders that Sian works with agree – and every single one of her current students submitted notes and letters of support, some very detailed. As Esther says, “Those hand written and very personal notes spoke for themselves.” Here is a selection of remarks culled from prisoner testimonials:
“a brilliant teacher [who gave] me the belief to pursue a career in painting and decorating”
“always happy and positive for us all…she pushed me on to gain this qualification”
“the most kind hearted member of staff I know”
“not only an exceptional tutor but a great person. She goes out of her way to help us with problems unrelated to painting and decorating as well”
“she goes out of her way and cares about us as people”
“she pushes prisoners to do more and better so I think the prison service would be better if they had a lot more staff like her”
The previous Governor of HMP Ford, who retired recently, was also very keen to ensure that Sian was nominated, and left his own note to support the nomination before he left, in which he wrote: “In almost 40 years of working for the Prison Service I have rarely, if ever, had the good fortune to have working for me someone as utterly dedicated to her role as Sian. Her ability to inspire and to get even the most difficult offender to engage and to want to succeed is exceptional.”
Ford’s current Governor, Steven Fradley , agrees, saying he “can think of very few examples of anyone who comes close to matching her qualities… She not only inspires her students, but also other staff. I, too, feel inspired by having someone here like Sian.
Sian herself describes how she sees the prison establishment “as a melting pot for some of the most negative human emotions –hate, fear, anger, sadness, greed – and I strive to show that compassion, consideration and the giving of one’s time can have a very powerful and positive effect.” Rather charmingly, she reached into a more metaphorical toolbox to talk about her work, saying, “We utilise many tools in the workshop, but I have learnt that the most valuable tools in my toolbox are kindness, patience, respect and humour.”