Meet the team: Peer Mentors in Custody
Clinical Lead in Prison Dentistry
South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust
- Northern Ireland
Quality Improvement Lead
South Eastern HSC Trust
- Northern Ireland
Assistant Director, Prison Healthcare, N.Ireland
South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust
- Northern Ireland
- Davey Nicholl- Governor HMP Maghaberry
- Gillian Winters- Head of Learning and Skills, Belfast Metropolitan College
- Anne McColl- UK Director Education, British Red Cross
- Elaine Toner- Senior Nurse Manager, SEHSCT, HMP Maghaberry
- Barry Rooney- Health Development Worker, Prison Setting, SEHSCT
‘Community exists for the sake of belonging and takes its identity from the gifts, generosity, and accountability of its citizens. It is not defined by its fears, its isolation, or its penchant for retribution.’ Peter Block
Prison can be a difficult and isolating environment, both for people in custody and for those who provide care. This project recognises the possibility of community, and the restorative structure of belonging. Founded on the principles of community based health and harnessing the great potential of people in custody, it is planned to commence a health care peer mentoring programme in Maghaberry Prison.
This is an inter-organisational venture building on a Whole Prison Approach to health and wellbeing. It is a collaboration between four stakeholders:
· Northern Ireland Prison Service with responsibility for people in custody.
· South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, providers of prison healthcare.
· Belfast Metropolitan College contracted to design and deliver education and training.
· Red Cross experts in conducting Prison Community Based Health Programmes
Evidence of Impact of Prison Healthcare Peer Mentor Programmes
Incredible work has already been conducted by the Red Cross in the Irish Prisons, where a community based health programme has demonstrated a highly positive impact to participant’s wellbeing. It has led to health promotion initiatives such as improved cell hygiene, oral health, HIV testing and weapons amnesty. Making a real difference to life in prison (Irish Red Cross 2017).
To develop the health care peer mentor programme we are planning to partner with the Red Cross to help with community based training in HMP Maghaberry. The Red Cross will bring their expertise and the empowering values of their organisation to this initiative.
The Approach- Peer Mentor Programme and Support Hub
Cultural transformation is taking place in the Northern Ireland Prisons with a move towards person centred care. There are already peer mentors working in the prison trained by in-reach community organisations, providing advice for issues such as housing, literacy and employment. Currently there are no health care mentors in HMP Maghaberry. This collaboration is working towards a standardisation of the training and support for peer mentors. A Support Hub in the Learning and Skills department of the prison will be established to provide network meetings, supervision, education and training opportunities.
The new programme will ensure that peer mentors will receive recognition and reward for the vital work they conduct and will gain accreditation. These skills and qualifications will be transferable into the community on release from prison, and will promote integration and rehabilitation.
QI Proposal -Healthcare Peer Mentors
This proposed initiative is part of an ongoing quality improvement (QI) project in HMP Maghaberry, focusing on providing a welcome to people as they enter prison. The project recognises communication in the first days of custody being crucial to safety, belonging and rehabilitation (Figure 1).
The work will involve co-designing the key messages communicated as people enter prison. Peer Mentors are central to this work in the design process and in the navigation and signposting of people to services. They will help to demystify the prison and healthcare structures.
Health Care Peer Mentors will link with everyone in the first 24 hours in prison, starting with ‘hello’ on the first morning of custody.
Peer Mentors will be involved in co-delivering induction about health care services in the first week of prison, shaping people’s expectations of prison health care. Much evidence is available of the power of peer-to peer conversations (Bagnall et al 2015, Q Lab 2018).
The QI Project will enable an improvement in trust, communication and relationships amongst people in custody and the staff. The training programme, will facilitate a community of peer mentors to lead in public health campaigns, focusing on what matters to people in prison. Campaigns will improve the prison environment and experience reducing incidents and complaints. Alongside the Red Cross training and peer mentor accreditation people will be supported to become trainers and promote programme sustainability, growing a community of active citizens.
It is planned to robustly evaluate the outcomes of the Peer Mentor Support Hub and peer mentor training programme using Q Lab (2018) findings, by examining:
· What difference has the initiative made to the peer mentors involved.
· Assess the wider impact on the health and wellbeing of the prison population
· Explore environmental improvements in the prison.
· Recognise the significance of collaboration and partnership working.
· Evaluate the benefits to staff.
Benefits to Q
Improvement in prison health impacts population health, tackling health inequalities.
Opportunity to share peer mentor programme and learning to Q members.
Plan to Scale and Spread successful prototype to other prisons in UK and Ireland.
This is a fantastic opportunity to collaborate, change culture and transform the prison health service delivery, by involving those at the centre of care in a radical community of belonging.
How you can contribute
- Advice and expertise on developing and supporting peer mentor programmes.
- Support on devising good outcome measures for the project- exploration of metrics explored by Q lab.
- Networking with members involved in prison health care and the justice system
QI Committal- driver diagram- Q EX (PDF, 25KB)