In depth - older people in prison

Prison Reform Trust is publishing a report that focuses on positive work with older people in our prisons.
We received funding from Lloyds TSB for this work and our earlier briefing Doing Time asked older prisoners about their experiences. In our forthcoming publication, prison staff share information about the work they do, with an emphasis on projects and services they are proud of. We received 92 responses, which is over three quarters of eligible prisons.  
Despite potential time and resource restraints many prisons are implementing innovative ways of working with older people. Our new report will highlight the areas where the prison service is doing good work. This is often at the initiative of individual officers or through colleagues from other agencies, most noticeably Age Concern. We believe that many of these approaches can be developed or varied in other prisons and be equally effective. We are hoping that disseminating these examples of good working practices will encourage other prisons to develop their services to this population.
One of the areas we have been looking at is social care. Currently, there is very little social service involvement in prisons.  Over nine out of ten prisons that responded to us said that social services had no involvement in their prisons. Only five prisons told us that an occupational therapist came in to the prison when required and would provide daily living aids. Another prison has employed two social care workers to look after its older population.  The numbers of prisoners with significant social care needs are low but this is likely to grow.  The Prison Reform Trust believes that social service involvement in our prisons is essential if people are going to get anything like equivalent care services. Currently the law is not clear about whether social services have a responsibility to provide social care or daily living aids in prisons.  Prisons are showing an inventive approach to the challenge of acquiring daily living aids for their prisoners with some prisons loaning items from their local hospital or Red Cross.
Our new research shows that social care in prisons will usually be delivered through healthcare with some prison officer involvement. There are examples of good interdisciplinary working, for example, many prisons use the care plan approach. This means that when someoneís needs are assessed, an action plan is drawn up clearly showing who is responsible for delivering each aspects of care and when this should be done. However, the current situation stretches the resources of the prison service and health service and means that expertise is diverted into providing social care.  
As well as looking at social care needs, the new report will highlight good practice work with prisoner carers and buddy systems. We will also detail positive examples of links with the community and resettlement work as well as  instances of consultation with older prisoners leading to activity and regime changes.

Related articles:

Ken Humphries talks about Age Concern's innovative resettlement project for older people in prison. Read more here 

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

A Mature Times reader asks whether it is fair that pensioner prisoners have their pensions stopped. Read more here 

Francesca Cooney, Advice and Information Manager for the Prison Reform Trust, advises on pension rights for prisoners. Read more here