COMMENDEE 2018-19: Stuart is a Volunteer at HMP Whatton. He receives a Commendation for over a decade of volunteering, both in support of military veterans in prison, through the Armed Forces charity SSAFA, and for his role driving the Older Prisoners’ Activities and Learning service, in conjunction with Age UK.
[Report based on original nomination and any supporting materials submitted to the Trust]
As Initial Nominator and Head of Residence & Services, Stephen Faulkner, explains, Stuart’s volunteering career ‘commenced when he “retired” at the age of sixty-five. For the past eleven years he has been making a significant difference to people within the wider community, in custody at HMP Whatton and other prisons within the Midlands area.’ He goes on:
‘Whilst he did not serve in the Armed Forces he has great admiration and respect for the men and women who have served their country. He became a volunteer for SAAFA and has supported many ex-service personnel. This work has resulted in him providing help and assistance for those in crisis due to personal circumstances, debt, housing issues and even ensuring that people he was supporting had basic clothing to keep them warm and protect their dignity… This work has resulted in him visiting service and ex-service personnel in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. He has been instrumental in developing SAAFA support for people serving custodial sentences at HMP Whatton.’
Currently Stuart’s ‘client group’ is ‘approximately eighty people, but during his time at Whatton’, explains Stephen, ‘Stuart has signed up over 800 people; this is nothing but phenomenal. Prior to his involvement there was no service available on site for the people in our care.’ [As part of the practice-themed work in its Dissemination Programme, The Butler Trust led a workshop on this area: Working with Veterans in Custody and the Community].
Stephen goes on to say that Stuart also attends the prison on a voluntary basis ‘to deliver a service for our older prisoners, Older Prisoner Activity and Learning (OPAL) [in conjunction with Age UK]. He does this for four days a week delivering activity sessions that significantly reduce the loneliness and social isolation experienced by some of the more vulnerable and older people in our care.’ [Also a subject addressed by The Butler Trust, in a workshop on the Management and Care of Older Prisoners and, in association with the Prison Reform Trust, one on Meeting the Needs of Older Prisoners & Responding to the Challenge of an Ageing Prison Population.]
Stephen says Stuart is ‘a positive role model that overcomes obstacles to ensure that the best possible service can be delivered. Stuart has been instrumental in the development and running of a day centre within the prison which is seen nationally as a unique and bespoke service that provides a safe environment where older prisoners can meet and engage in activity in a relaxing and non-institutional space.’
Local Butler Trust Champion and Whatton’s Head of Business Assurance, Gerry Bishop, explains that ‘Older Prisoners Activity and Learning (OPAL) service is run in conjunction with Age UK and operates in a way that a drop-in centre for older people would act in the community. The prison, due to its demographic, has a substantial number of older prisoners and the work Stuart does adds an important extra strand to our services for that age group.’ He says Stuart ‘goes the extra mile and is well regarded by all at HMP Whatton’. (Stephen also gives a good example of ‘institutional memory’, in his capacity as the Butler Trust Local Champion at HMP Whatton for a number of years, by recalling that Stuart was also included in a 2016 nomination, in that case in his earlier capacity as a Safer Living Foundation (SLF) volunteer). He concludes by saying that ‘I am sure Stuart would acknowledge in age terms he is not a young man (over 70), but yet he puts the enthusiasm, commitment and energy of an individual half his age into everything he does here.’
Three prisoners offer testimonial support for Stuart’s nomination. ‘Terry’* said:
‘It was Stuart’s non-judgemental, selfless approach to his role that has not only made a huge impact on the quality of my life; but countless others who preceded me at HMP Whatton. He is totally committed to supporting both prisoners and staff and as such, freely devotes his time and energy to attend and assist with day centre group sessions a number of times each week. His knowledge, experience, guidance and support I believe is invaluable.”
‘I would like to nominate Stuart because of his work with prisoners through SSAFA. The work he does for OPAL is invaluable as it gets them off their wings with a chance to integrate with other prisoners. Stuart makes sure that there is always plenty for the guys to do from live music to quizzes, DVDs to watch and plenty more. Through SSAFA Stuart is the contact point for any inmate who has served in the forces and may need help after release. As a former member of the forces myself I have found Stuart to be a great support by helping me to obtain an electric wheel chair for my disability. Nothing is ever too much trouble for Stuart and his dedication to OPAL and the prisoners is very much appreciated … given that Stuart is in his 70s himself it makes him even more worthy of consideration.’
Finally, ‘Mark’ wrote that he’s known Stuart for three years ‘and if anybody needs help, he’ll assist them if he can. His enthusiasm and commitment is second to none. I know Stuart gets a lot of satisfaction from his time spent at Whatton and that many inmates appreciate him – as I do too.’
In short, it is clear that, as Whatton’s Governor, Lynn Saunders, wrote: ‘Stuart is held in the highest regard by prisoners, staff and management at HMP Whatton.’
While preparing this write up, we were pleased to learn that Stuart has been recognised by Her Majesty The Queen with an award of the Order of the British Empire in the 2019 New Year’s Honours List for his voluntary service at HMP Whatton.
* Prisoners’ names have been anonymised.