Support in the community
Preparation for release has often been seen as inadequate by RECOOP’s service users. Many prisons lack the specialist resources needed to help older prisoners prepare for a new life in the community and there is a danger that lack of appropriate resettlement support will affect the success of transition from custody to community. Some of the main issues are detailed below:
Many older prisoners are serving long sentences. Some may become institutionalised, losing touch with changes in society and lacking crucial self-help skills and confidence to live in the community.
Resettlement involves engaging with a number of complex systems such as social care, benefits or pensions, housing, and personal finance. Older offenders completing long sentences may find it particularly difficult to adjust and need more support in preparation for release. Many older prisoners are released on licence which also requires them to manage a range of restrictions and obligations.
Some prisoners are released to No Fixed Abode (NFA). The reasons are unclear but may include late or no referral to housing agencies. Some older ex-offenders are vulnerable to exploitation by private landlords. There have been cases of poor housing conditions and of some landlords charging a premium for coins or tokens for electricity meters.
There is no statutory requirement to refer a prisoner to a local GP or dentist. Some lack the knowledge or necessary documentation to help them make their own arrangements, when this can be vital to maintaining or managing complex health issues. Very few older prisoners have a working relationship with social services to set up necessary health and social care services on release from custody.
EXAMPLES OF THE CHALLENGES FACED
It is especially difficult for an older prisoner being released into the community if they are moving to a new area or facing homelessness. They are often less resourceful, adaptable and can be more vulnerable than their younger counterparts.
- Prisoners with mobility issues are leaving prison without wheelchairs or frames as these belong to the prison. This means that they are arriving in towns and cities without the ability to walk very far. Some, leaving prison in winter months, have no warm clothing or coats.
- Elderly and vulnerable prisoners are leaving prison to communities without anywhere to live or anyone to contact (ties with families have been severed) which can, in severe cases, lead to sleeping rough for a significant period of time. Older prisoners are leaving prison without pensions or benefits set up and the new lack of Social Fund provision could result in an acute level of crisis.
- After long periods of incarceration, prisoners are leaving without an ability to use a cash machine / computer / mobile phone / self-service aisle in a shop and don’t recognise the new technological world around them. This can cause anxiety and fear.
- Confidence and self-esteem are generally low for older people leaving prison. It should be recognised that individual prisoners’ needs and abilities vary considerably and that resettlement cannot be effectively provided on a ‘one size fits all’ basis. The opportunity to discuss personal needs is valuable. Such preparation can be effectively applied in group sessions, though in RECOOP’s experience one-to-one support may be needed in some cases.
Community Support Resources – Click here to access our resource library.
The Support Cafés, in Dorset and Plymouth, are open to male and female offenders over the age of 50 and combine elements of the health and well-being clinic service currently being delivered in prisons, with additional specific group and 121 work, offering information and signposting support. Details of locations and opening times can be found in the Leaflets below.
The aim of the Café is to offer regular, dedicated and focussed support to older offenders that will complement health, care, community interactions and resettlement initiatives and will provide outcomes that can be measured against key Pathways. However, the overarching aim is to reduce reoffending and address the health inequalities faced by this hard to reach, marginalised group.
Agency Referral Forms, Support Café Leaflets and Service User Handout are all available to download from this page.
RECOOP (a subsidiary within the BCHA Group) has been successful in securing a sub contracting piece of work with Shaw Trust to deliver services within the NOMS Co-Financing Organisation Round 3 (CFO3) contract. The contract is funded by the European Social Fund. Together RECOOP and BCHA plan to support over 500 offenders during the life of the 5 ¾ year contract across a number of prisons and community area within the South West region.
In conjunction with offenders, we are currently working on a series of Community Services Handouts covering major cities in England and these will be made available in the Resource Library.
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- 'Rubies' at HMP Eastwood Park support Royal United Hospitals Bath bobble hat appeal https://t.co/5zaNdE7wiW11:04am, Feb 14, 2018
- "RECOOP group has given me the chance to explore and challenge myself in ways I thought I was incapable of" https://t.co/lfcq2noLZv9:59am, Jan 18, 2018
- "Renewed my faith in what is possible in the justice system" https://t.co/Z9rbWimJa710:20am, Jan 05, 2018
- "It’s been enormously helpful to collaborate with RECOOP" Laura Roan @OsborneNY https://t.co/aNjRbQPV6G9:44am, Oct 09, 2017
- “All on the course felt empowered – even me!”– pilot ‘Transition 50+ Resettlement Programme’ is a resounding success https://t.co/DEOr2vggqt10:42am, Aug 18, 2017
- Ryan Harman, @PRTuk and RECOOP Trustee talks about Social Care in Prison https://t.co/KLAiMLptSx9:16am, Aug 07, 2017
- “Provision for older prisoners by The Lobster Pot was outstanding” - HMP Leyhill IMB Report https://t.co/vwPUitwCnC10:45am, Aug 01, 2017
- A personal story from an older prisoner so relevant to the challenges of our service-users https://t.co/cbfuqhHuEf9:37am, Jul 19, 2017
- RECOOP & SSAFA working together to give ex-servicemen and women a stronger chance of successful rehabilitation https://t.co/5j7p0kTTSm11:06am, Jul 12, 2017
- Prisons & Probation Ombudsman highlights the urgent need to address rise in number of older prisoners https://t.co/fGqlvz4jEc2:26pm, Jun 29, 2017