Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEE 2016-17: Antony is a Vocational Instructor for industrial cleaning at HMP Huntercombe, and is Commended for his outstanding all-round contribution to prisoner education, training and development.
Tony Hyde is a Vocational Instructor for industrial cleaning at HMP Huntercombe, whose workshop has just seen his 1000th learner awarded the nationally recognised British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICS) qualification. In a prison with around a hundred nationalities speaking some fifty languages, his dedication has forged a culture of mutual support, self-discipline, and real future opportunities for those in his care. Furthermore, with his team of expert cleaners on hand for specialist spills like body fluids, he’s also helping save Huntercombe “tens of thousands of pounds annually.”
His nominator, Andrea Knight, Huntercombe’s Industries Manager, praises Tony for creating a learning environment not only for work related skills and qualifications, but a place, “just as importantly, where personal reflection and self development is the focus.” The qualifications include standard, advanced and biohazard cleaning to Trainer/Assessor levels. “However,” she adds, “Peer Mentoring is at the heart of Tony’s work area, giving men a sense of belonging and responsibility that many have not experienced in the past. He cares about those going through his course, taking an active role in making sure the men push themselves and each other out of their comfort zone to achieve the very best in themselves.” His high success rates, averaging over 95%, “are just one of the many positive outcomes. Some of our most difficult characters have found a pathway to turning their lives around in the BICS work area.”
As well as “empowering men, fostering self confidence, supporting self esteem and improving their communication skills,” says Andrea, Tony “actively coaches them to a position where they have the confidence to stand up in front of their peers and give instruction authoritatively. He coaches the men in how to deal with the more difficult situations they may find themselves in and how to deal with those not engaging in the correct manner, using persuasion and encouragement, when previously they may have used force or violence. Seeing the Mentors taking great pride in their role and ownership of their tutor group is heart warming.”
Tony’s work, she adds, “changes men, often with a bleak outlook on life or who have been dealt poor cards, replacing this with a platform to start afresh, learning confidence, self esteem and skills,” allowing men who thought they were unemployable a real chance at regular work upon release – some going on to run their own cleaning companies and employ other ex-prisoners. Tony’s approach “replicates external employment – a very valuable asset to those needing employability skills for a smoother passage to release, whether in this country or abroad.”
Identified as a ‘Centre of Excellence’ by BICS, Tony also shared his knowledge and best practice with other establishments, regionally and further afield. “Needless to say,” adds Andrea, “Tony is very well respected by his colleagues and the men he works with. We often get letters from ex-offenders thanking him for all he did for them.”
One prisoner, Chris*, says “The skills and life lessons Tony has provided will help make a better life for myself and my family.” Another, Ahmed,* describes how “Tony believed in me and saw potential in me that even I didn’t know I had. He is a good man and a very special person.”
Butler Trust Local Champion and Deputy Governor, Martin Hatch, says “what makes Tony special is that he treats each prisoner as an individual and takes the time to make them feel important and valued. You can see how the Mentors take great pride in their role and take ownership of the group they are teaching. You can see the men growing in confidence through Tony’s guidance and support.”
“Tony is respected throughout the establishment by prisoners and colleagues alike,” adds Martin, “not only for what he achieves but also the manner in which he goes about his duties, inspiring everyone with his enthusiasm and positive approach.”
Michael*, another offender, calls Tony “a stand out guy” who is “totally respected by all he helps.” Leo* adds, “he always goes the extra mile to ensure your understanding and that what you are doing is exactly as it should be done to make you the best you can be.”
Learning and Skills Manager Ged Dickinson says “I have never come across a more determined and self-disciplined man. The men’s welfare is in the forefront of Tony’s mind and he genuinely cares about them achieving for themselves.”
Governor Laura Sapwell calls Tony “an amazing asset to the community of staff and prisoners here at Huntercombe. He is loyal, conscientious, hardworking, friendly, professional, decent and very capable. He has excellent relationships with all the men in his work party who all have enormous respect for him. He has such a positive approach, and just gets things done without any fuss or drama.”
Talking about his work, Tony says, “the icing on the cake for me is the men who now run their own businesses and employ ex-offenders… They often write in once released to thank me and to let me know how they are doing with their cleaning.”
Not resting on his laurels, he has already begun working to ensure additional Employability Skills, Transferable Skills and the Softer Skills “will be a big part of the workshop’s future plans.”
Speaking of its impact, Tony says, “I have seen the difference this course makes to the men and their families and I know it changes the way the men see themselves. It changes thought processes towards re-offending; that success can not be measured or quantified, but it is the most satisfying part of what I do.”
He ends with some excellent advice that reflects his ethos: “I encourage men to aim high – if you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly – and that way they all achieve something.”
* Name changed
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