As the older prisoner population continues to rise in prisons across England and Wales, there is an increasing need for prisons to provide activities that meet the needs of older people. With this is mind, several prisons have built Day Centre provision into their regimes in which RECOOP are currently delivering, or have provided a regular service.
The benefits of a Day Centre cannot be under-estimated. Occupying time of the older prisoner population is always a problem. Too old to be in employment and some too frail to take part in other organised activities within the prison, many are left in their cells for too much of their time.
A Day Centre offers them a space in which they can interact with others, be able to make good use of their time by taking part in sessions, sit and read a newspaper if they so choose, in a quiet, relaxed, safe environment and be given the opportunity of meeting people of a similar age and experience, which in itself is a new experience for some.
Purposeful activities are a vital way of giving older prisoners, who may be retired or have health needs that make it difficult to access the normal regime, key skills that help them during their time in custody and into resettlement.
The way older people think about quality of life and mental and emotional health is not that different to the way younger people think. Most people need to feel useful, connected and able to contribute. Whatever this means to an individual it is important to health and wellbeing.
In prison there are often insufficient activities for older prisoners and the pressures on prison staff can easily mean that there is little motivation to engage the older population in meaningful activity because they don’t shout the loudest.
Introducing new and purposeful activity can provide a sense of achievement, identity and contribution for both older prisoners and the prison staff working with this group of people.
The Justice Select Committee Inquiry into the treatment of older prisoners (2013) recommended that prisons should provide age-specific regimes to meet the needs of the older population.
As part of it’s Consultancy Service, RECOOP can work with prisons to develop and provide bespoke Direct Services for older prisoners.
Examples of some of our current Direct Services:
“Lobster Pot” Model
- Day Care Centre, delivered by RECOOP staff
- Open 5 days a week to the older population
- Primary function to facilitate resettlement of older prisoners
- Focussing on the pathways: addressing attitudes, thinking and behaviour, accommodation, drugs and alcohol, children and families, health, education, training and employment and finance, benefit and debt.
- The team were instrumental in developing the End of Life Care provision
- Age Specific Personal Plans & Support delivered in conjunction with Personal Officers.
- Future work will involve reviewing ROTL and Community placements for older prisoners.
The project identified the three following outcomes for the older prisoners:
- Improved confidence, skills and personal resources to reintegrate successfully into society.
- Increased personal responsibility for life choices and use life experiences to improve peer support.
- Better prepared for end-of-life; peers are better supported when such events take place.
In stark comparison to our provision at HMP Leyhill, where prisoners are approaching release and are ready for resettlement intervention, at HMP Manchester the focus is on social inclusion and providing much needed time out of cell in a relaxed and friendly environment.
As you might expect in a prison which forms part of the High Security estate, space is at a premium, and whilst a permanent suitable venue would be the optimum, staff at the prison have not let the absence of such a space stand in the way of provision. Each Tuesday afternoon, the Chapel is transformed. There are spaces for :
- A corner for Chess and Scrabble
- A corner designated to teams of Quizzers and Bingo players
- A space for 1-2-1s with other agencies, such as Education, Prisoners’ Advice Service and Out There, a charity that provides support for Families of Prisoners
- For those with more energy, the centre of the Chapel is used for Quoits
- A place for those who just want to read the paper
- Visualisation sessions and drama practice are held in the quieter Chapel lobby
The men at the Over 50s Day Centre in Manchester engage in the running of the Centre on a weekly basis; they run the kitchen, providing tea, coffee and biscuits for everyone; we have a Quiz Master who writes all of the quiz material and a Bingo caller.
There is a misconception that Day Centre provision in a prison except a Cat D Open prison is too difficult to implement. HMP Manchester proves that with a little thought and imagination, anything is possible.
“Having attended the RECOOP over 50’s Day Centre ….it was really useful for us at ‘Out There’ to inform the men of the support we offer to families of prisoners, as nearly all of the prisoners in that group were unaware that family support was available. The Day Centre is a great service for older prisoners and having spoken to some families of prisoners who access it, reassuring for them also.” (Out There)
For further information about setting up your own Day Centre, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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