Evergreen 50+ services for older prisoners

Alyson Royle, from Age Concern Leicester, Shire & Rutland talks about the excellent Evergreen 50+  project, offering advocacy and other support.

Evergreen 50+ is an innovative and pioneering service which aims to provide advocacy and other support to older prisoners to improve their conditions and access to services thereby reducing isolation and reoffending and promoting successful resettlement.

The Age Concern Leicester, Shire & Rutland Older Prisoners Advocacy Service was established in 2004 in response to the Prison Reform Trust's report Growing Old in Prison (2003).  In light of this report Age Concern Leicester, Shire & Rutland identified a possible need for an advocacy service for older prisoners in HMP Gartree and HMP Leicester. The service was initially funded for two years by Age Concern England, and the Lankelly Chase Foundation have funded the service for the last three years.  

In 2007 the Advocacy Service was renamed Evergreen 50+ following discussions with older prisoners. Evergreen 50+ emphasises the positive approach to the service and now in 2010 the service continues to provide advocacy and other support for older prisoners in order to improve their conditions and access to the services they need both within prison and upon resettlement.

This pioneering service is now well established at HMP Gartree and HMP Leicester and is available to all prisoners aged 50 years and over.  The older prisoners coordinator has a responsibility to identify the needs of older prisoners and establish good working relationships with other staff and agencies within the prisons.  Fundamentally the Evergreen 50+ service assists prisoners with issues affecting their day to day living and continues to promote awareness of the issues faced by older prisoners. Much of the work undertaken by the older prisoners coordinator involves ongoing and sustained one to one advocacy work with older prisoners.  The work is usually very complex and time consuming and this has been emphasised by the long-term level of support offered by the service and the fact that many referrals involve numerous issues.  Referrals have continued to be received from prisoners themselves and other agencies or staff within the prisons.

Access to such a service improves the older prisonerís experience of the criminal justice system and subsequently makes a contribution to their successful resettlement back into the community. One-to-one advocacy and support empowers older prisoners to deal with the issues they face and helps to alleviate some of their anxieties and sense of isolation. The role of Evergreen 50+ is seen as being increasingly invaluable and unique as it is responsive, impartial and independent. In addition Age Concern is seen as having specialist knowledge and experience of the issues facing older people.   

Age Concern Leicester, Shire & Rutland are committed to a continued delivery of the Evergreen 50+ service, providing a comprehensive one-to-one advocacy and support service for older prisoners. By providing effective, responsive and timely advocacy older prisoners are given the opportunity to have input into improving their conditions and access to the services they need and by this process reduce isolation and increase physical health and mental wellbeing. Evergreen 50+ is having positive input in end-to-end offender management as it increases pro-social behaviour through voices being heard.