COVID-19 has thrown up many challenges in all aspects of life, not least in prisons. There is a fear that the necessary, highly restrictive regimes put in place to combat the spread of coronavirus, will have a huge impact on the mental health of prisoners. HMIP suggests that some prisoners are spending no more than 30 minutes a day out of their cells.
Prisons accommodate many vulnerable people who statistically tend to be in poorer health than the general population. Long periods of isolation, without easy access to information and support, will make fear and anxiety even more extreme and is likely to lead to the deterioration in prisoners’ physical and mental wellbeing. The COVID-19 impact on prisoners, prison staff and other prison resources is far reaching and the effects may be seen for some significant time to come.
Responding to the challenge and to help meet the needs of prisoners, RECOOP has developed its Buddy Support Worker Programme into a Distance Learning Programme meaning it can still be delivered while the country remains in lockdown, building Buddy capacity to assist staff in the care and support of people who are mentally or physically affected by COVID-19.
Prison Custodial Manager during COVID outbreak May 2020
“I consider the Buddies to be vital to the work we do, I simply cannot begin to imagine how we would cope without them. This is true even more so during the difficult times we currently face. The Buddies team work alongside the staff on F-wing, the establishments ‘shielding’ unit for our most vulnerable men.
The way in which they have all risen to the challenge is remarkable, they care for others from the moment they are unlocked in the morning until the time they return to their cells for the night. They show patience, compassion and selflessness when looking after those in their care.
It is a credit to the training they receive that they are equipped to carry out this challenging work to such a consistently high standard. Despite the unprecedented times we find ourselves in, and the necessary restrictions placed on all of our lives, the atmosphere on the wing shielding unit remains positive – the presence of the Buddies has undoubtedly played a significant part in this.
With the increasing number of older prisoners in our establishments, the Buddies are more important than ever and in my opinion no prison should be without them!”
For more information about the Buddy Distance Learning Programme, please contact us.