Demand for prison buddying project set to grow through the pandemic

A buddying project that helps support older people in prison is looking to expand into Greater Manchester.

Since 2010, charity – RECOOP – has been pioneering new and effective ways to support older people with convictions, aged 50 and over.

The charity says older people in prison are a hidden and little-recognised population but the number of over 50s in prison is projected to rise to 14,100 by 2022—an increase of 3%. The most significant change is anticipated in the over 70s, projected to rise by 19%.

And it is predicted that the demand for the service will increase as more people spend longer periods of time locked in their cells due to the pandemic.

Here Sarah Jane Davies, a Buddy Project Manager, who works in prisons across the North West for RECOOP, tells us about how she trains younger inmates to care for older or vulnerable inmates – to combat the difficulties that surround ageing in prison.

She said: “Our main starting point is delivering intense training to the select few inmates ‘buddies’ who have shown responsible behaviour, based on the Health and Social Care Model.

“Once we have trained buddies we pair people up. This could range from older males to younger men, people with dementia and mental health problems, all of whom could be at risk of isolation.

“Buddies provide a range of support to a fellow inmate, from helping them to navigate the wing, attend appointments, reminding them to take medication, eating in the dining hall together, or simply being good company.

“We see both sets of people involved in the buddying grow in confidence and also become more independent.”

Quotes from prisoners who have benefitted from the RECOOP prison buddying service.

Paul Grainge, Chief Officer, at RECOOP, added: “We are immensely proud of our service and the quality provision delivered by our prison buddy teams, particularly during this challenging period.

“We anticipate that the demand for the service will increase as more people spend longer periods of time locked in their cells due to the pandemic. The buddies are an integral part of the working prison regimes, supporting the most vulnerable and forging strong working relationships with their prison partner teams.”

For more information on Recoop visit: www.recoop.org.uk 

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