What is your role?

I am the Family Engagement Worker at HMP/YOI East Sutton Park in Kent.

Describe your Pact journey so far?

Working for Pact has been a brilliant experience, the ethos of the charity is one I wholly believe in. I have learnt so much in the two years I have worked here about the impact of prison, not only on offenders, but on their families and particularly their children. I have worked with many women, whose children have been distressed and traumatised by the loss of a parent to a custodial sentence; I have seen the difference that support from our services can make. I have been lucky to work in a prison that fully recognises the value of our work, with a management that treats each resident as an individual, responding to the needs of their family members.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

This is an impossible question to answer. Each day starts with me checking my post, emails and phone messages and reading the observation book in the centre office. Working in an open prison means there is no problem accessing the residents and them coming to find me. Every day I have scheduled appointments, but in between there will be unexpected events that I need to be involved in. I work hard to know each family and provide a point of contact for family members, who sometimes just need to ask a question about procedure or the regime of the prison.

The residents at East Sutton Park eventually spend more time away from prison than they do here so I work quite a lot of weekends in order to see those who work during the week and the visits here are only at weekends so I will schedule a weekend day to meet with family members and support women when they see their children in difficult circumstances. I also facilitate weekday contacts for the women and their children, when a weekend is not suitable for them.

I work closely with the staff at the mother and baby unit in HMP Bronzefield to make sure the transition plan for women who have to hand their babies out to relatives, minimises the separation anxiety for both parties and will organise extra contacts before the women are able to ROTL home.

I sit on risk boards for the women I work with and will advocate for them having the maximum time with their children at home that their sentence will allow, within the restrictions of safeguarding matters.

Every day is busy, every day I encounter strong women who have ended up in a situation, where every aspect of control in their life is taken away, the most emotive being the care of their children and other family members. The best feeling I have is when residents stop needing to see me, when they have reclaimed their place in their family and are confident to leave prison with a robust resettlement plan, that hopefully includes a stable and nurturing environment for their children.

What have you got from working at Pact?

Pact has given me confidence in the work that I do. I feel valued and have gained a broad knowledge of the criminal justice sector.

What is the best thing about working at Pact?

The service users response to my support

What are you most proud of achieving at Pact?

I was lucky to receive a Butler’s Trust certificate this year for my work, following a nomination by the prison.