Andy Keen-Downs, CEO of Pact Group

October 2017

Hello Pact People,

It has never been quite so busy in Pact, and there’s a lot going on, a lot of change, and a lot of new faces, so I thought I would put together one of my briefings for you all. I’d intended to make it short and snappy – but there is so much that you need to know – so this is a ‘Bumper Special Edition’ folks.

What Pact staff always tell me is that we need to work on our communications. That people want to know what’s going on. So, that’s what this is all about. Its kind of long, I know..sorry. But you can always read it in chunks! And please do share it with your colleagues.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin..

Pixie is the Pact intranet. Its your information resource for what you need to work at Pact.

Fond Farewells

Our service at HMP Forest Bank has now closed, due to a decision by Sodexo Justice Services who manage the prison. I am proud of the work we have done at Forest Bank, and want to put on record that our staff and volunteers provided excellent services for prisoners and their families. Sodexo’s decision was a huge disappointment, but our staff & management handled the situation with grace & professionalism. Sadly we are saying farewell to Emma Littlewood and Fiona White from our Forest Bank team. They did a great job and will be much missed. Good Luck!

We have also said goodbye to MaryAnne Knight who worked for us with great success providing one to one support to prisoners at Glenn Parva and later at Swinfen Hall, and to Pauline Neal, who did a great job on the Isle of Sheppey to ensure that prisoners’ children had positive visits. Thank you both for your service and Good Luck.

Goodbye also to Kat Copperthwaite, who has moved from from running ‘Hear our Voice’to become the new Policy Officer at Criminal Justice Alliance . We’re delighted for Kat, and look forward to keeping in touch as we are members of the CJA ( who are based in Vauxhall, a bus ride away from central office in London!).

Our thanks to all of these staff for all the hard work and commitment they made to supporting children and families & people with convictions. They made a difference and I’m sure they will continue to do so. We wish them all the very best.


On behalf of my senior team, I want to warmly welcome all of our new staff who join us this month. Whether you have joined us on a TUPE transfer, merger, or have been appointed to a role, we’re delighted to welcome you to Pact. We have never had so many staff join us in a single month before. I hope this briefing will be helpful as one of the many ways in which you will feel welcomed, and supported to feel part of Pact and find your way around.

Welcome to Send Family LInk

Over the years, a number of charities have become part of Pact, including Kids VIP, Time for Families and Prisoners’ Families & Friends Service. We are now pleased to welcomethe team of staff and volunteers based in the visitors’ centre at HMP Send in Surrey. For many years they have run the excellent visitors centre, play service,visits catering and family days at this women’s prison in Surrey. We have issued a press release which is on the Pact website with further details. Welcome to Pact!

Pact now in 60 prisons

Pact works in a range of settings, but of course, prisons are at the core of our work. We are pleased to announce that we now deliver services of one kind or another in 60 prisons across England & Wales, including ‘Through the Gate’ services from our Pact Futures Community Interest Company teams, the ESF CFO case managers and mentoring staff, family services, Basic Caring Communities, Groupwork programmes, and much more. So, even if you are a lone worker in your prison, or part of a small team, wherever you are, somewhere there are people doing a job like you do, or people with experience and expertise they would be happy to share. Don’t be shy. If you need a bit of advice or support, ask your manager to link you up with other Pact staff. We aim to be one Pact team. Be curious. Find out who does what and buddy up. We are a learning organisations, and one of the best ways of learning is from other experts in the organisation.

Policies Update

Health and Safety policy

We have undertaken a widespread review of the health and safety policy involving managers, the Health and Safety committee and a review by an external consultant. This is a really important document and it is absolutely essential that everyone reads it and understands the responsibilities each one of us has for health and safety. We will be contacting managers about this separately to ensure this policy is reviewed at team meetings during the next few months.

We will also be launching a new accident and incident reporting procedure shortly…keep an eye out for it! (oh dear…that’s probably not an appropriate line..)

Attendance, Leave and Absence policy

This policy provides information on:

 Our attendance policy, which relates to working hours, accruing additional hours, TOIL and overtime

 Leave arrangements, which includes holiday, maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave, arrangements when employees need emergency time off relating to dependents and compassionate leave. There is also a new section relating to Shared Parental Leave, which is where parents can share time off after a baby has been born or a child has been adopted.

 Sickness absence reporting and arrangements

 Other absence arrangements including time off for appointments and jury service

Most of the changes have related to updating the family friendly leave arrangements to reflect ACAS guidance and to ensure enhanced pay arrangements for family leave is consistent across maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave. We have also made minor changes to clarify leave and absence arrangements.

There is one area of significant change and this relates to qualification for enhanced family friendly pay. New employees, employed from 1 November 2017 (whose continuous employment date starts from 1 November 2017) will be required to have 12 months completed service at a qualifying point (linked to a set week in pregnancy or in relation to the matching date for adoption). The enhanced pay for new employees will be:

o 6 weeks at full pay

o 33 weeks at 30% of average weekly earnings (or lower rate SMP, whichever is higher)

These new employees will be required to return to work for a 12 month period following leave, otherwise they will be required to repay any enhanced payments received.

As a reminder, for existing employees the qualifying period is slightly shorter and the entitlement will remain at:

o 13 weeks at full pay

o 26 weeks at 30% of average weekly earnings (or lower rate SMP, whichever is higher)

Existing employees are required to return to work for 3 months following their leave, otherwise they will be required to repay any enhanced payments.

Our family friendly policies are more generous than many other organisations in our field despite the changes above. We have also reviewed the holiday and sick pay provisions but have decided to leave these arrangements unchanged. We recognise the vital importance of rest and recuperation and spending quality time away from work, and know that these are highly valued by our people.

Elements of this policy are quite ally complicated (especially Shared Parental Leave), so please do get in touch with the HR team if you have any questions.

Flexible Working policy

We have a new policy which sets out employees’ rights to request flexible working, and the arrangements for how Pact will manage and respond to any requests received.

Policy on recruitment of people with convictions

Being a registered body with the DBS requires us to set out our policy approach to recruiting people with convictions. Elements are covered in our recruitment policy, but we decided to have a separate policy which we will publish on our website for all applicants to access. As you would expect, we positively welcome applications for paid and voluntary work from people who have been affected by imprisonment or have criminal convictions. However the policy explains how we have to balance this against the suitability of the opportunity, the vetting requirements for the role and the risk assessment approach we take.

Pension policy

Ross Holland, our Director of Finance and ICT, sent out the updated pension policy earlier this week and reminded everyone about the pension contribution changes that will be coming into effect in April 2018 and April 2019.

Expenses policy

The expenses policy has also been updated and was recently circulated.

All of these policies are available on Pixie.

Supporting our Volunteers

Some of you may have met Lizzie Trueblood, who has been reviewing Pact’s approach to volunteering across our Family Services and developing a recruitment campaign. Lizzie has been focusing on our systems and processes, to develop approaches which can work well for everyone in Pact, making better use of technology, and giving us a more consistent, and quality assured approach to how we recruit, vet & select, train, support, and recognise the contribution of volunteers. Watch this space!


A big thank you to Jo Mulcahy, Peter Snashall and other colleagues for all their hard work in reviewing all of our core training, and ensuring that so many staff have been able to catch up with their core training requirements, and much more besides. Feedback from the recent Safeguarding, Professional Boundaries, and Equal Opportunities & Diversity Training has been very positive, and we have also had excellent feedback from the management training course and volunteer co-ordinator training.

In spite of tight budget constraints, we’re continuing to invest in training, and that includes investing in our own staff to become qualified trainers. Many congratulations to Erin Power, Hannah Greenwood and Helen Blasdale who have recently obtained their OCN Level 3 Awards in Education & Training (the new version/equivalent of what we used to call ‘PTLLS’).

Training Dates

Do keep an eye on our Training Calendar in Pixie. Its in the ‘HR & Training’ section. It is regularly updated, but here are the current courses that are scheduled:

Working with Gypsy & Traveller Families

This course is designed to provide cultural awareness training for working with prisoners’ families from a Gypsy, Roma or Traveller Heritage.

14th November, 2017 10:00am - 3:30pm

Location: Pact Birmingham Office, McLaren Building, 46 Priory Queensway, Birmingham, B4 7LR

Foundation Training (21st November & 13 December)

This is the one day introductory course to Pact, covering who we are, our history, who does what, desistance-based practice, information security and other topics. It’s a full day, and I look forward to seeing all our new staff at it. Foundation Training is one of our essential (mandatory) trainings and all paid staff are required to attend within their first four months of employment.

Please note it may require an overnight stay. This is paid for and will be organised by Central Office when you book a place. Staff should book online via Pixie (our intranet).

If you have been with us for a while, and have never attended Foundation Training, for whatever reason, please speak to your manager about booking a place as soon as possible. We would love to see you.

We have Two Course Dates:

21st November, 2017, 9:00am - 5:00pm

13 December 2017, 9.00am – 5.00pm

Location: Pact Central Office, 29 Peckham Road, London, SE5 8UA or another venue in London (tbc)

Supervision skills for Volunteer Co-ordinators

We love volunteers, and all our services depend on their goodwill, motivation, and commitment. How can we best support and equip volunteers to work appropriately safely and effectively to help us deliver excellent services. A chance to develop your skills and confidence in this area, or refresh your practice and meet other Pact staff.

27th November 9:30am - 4:30pm

Location: Pact Central Office, 29 Peckham Road, London, SE5 8UA

Supervision skills for Managers of staff

All Pact people deserve the best possible support and supervision. Yet we often find ourselves moving into management or supervisory roles without training or much time to reflect on what good supervision looks like. Managing staff can be challenging. Whether you are new to supervising staff, or feel you could do with a chance to refresh your approach to supervision and spend time with Pact colleagues to share experiences and learn from one another, this is a great course and chance to develop your skills and confidence.

28th November, 2017 9:30am - 3:00pm

Location: Pact Central Office, 29 Peckham Road, London, SE5 8UA

Branding & House Style

A gentle reminder that Pact has a clear set of rules about the use of our logo, typeface, and so on (our ‘house style’). It can be found on Pixie. If you need any advice or guidance, please contact Louise Potter, our Communications Manager, in central office.

([email protected]).

Online information for prisoners’ families (Visits)

Have you ever tried to use the Ministry of Justice’s website to find out information about visiting a prison? If so, you will understand why we have decided to do it better! Prisoners’ families call our Helpline every day with questions about how to visit, how visits work, how to maintain contact, and other issues. And complain that information online is wrong or out of date. So, we have decided that we will develop and expand our web information for prisoners’ families & friends. Having consulted service users, and staff with many years’ experience of working in visitors centres, we are building an online page for every prison where we run services, with a searchable map, to make it just a bit easier for families to keep in touch.

We also plan to build pages for prisons where we don’t currently run the visits services, and on these, we will route people through to the charity or agency that does.

So if you work in a Visitors Centre, you may hear from Louise Potter or your manager, asking you to fill in an information sheet about the visiting times, arrangements and rules in your prison. If so, please do respond ASAP. Its vital that we get the right information, and its our people in frontline services who know best.

It is also vital that we keep it up to date. So we will be asking staff locally to keep an eye on the page for your prison, and to let us know if there are any changes as . We are setting up a new email address for the purpose, but in the meantime, please do support Louise to build this exciting new resource for prisoners’ families.

In the long run, it will make life that bit easier for prisoners families, prisoners, prison staff, and us.


Debbie Hornbuckle, our national manager for group-work programmes, has asked me to share some exciting developments.

New Pact Course for Mothers in Prison

We are scheduled to pilot a new 1 day course for mothers in prison, at HMP Downview in October. We are working with criminology academic Lucy Baldwin. Follow her on Twitter – she’s great.

More Accreditation for Pact Courses

Our ‘Coming Home’ Course, which is a short course to help people in prison prepare for life after release, and our ‘FLiP’(Family Literacy in Prisons) courses have now both been approved by SFJ (Skills for Justice) Awards.

University Partnerships

FLiP is accredited by the University of Sheffield through their outstanding School of Education.

We now also have a special partnership with the University of Denver-based ‘PREP’ team to deliver the ‘Within My Reach’ course in the UK. We are the only UK based agency licensed to deliver the programme here. We are also getting ‘Within My Reach‘ approved by the SFJ Awards scheme.

Development Opportunities for Pact Staff

We hope to be running ‘train the trainers’ events for selected Pact staff in October/ November in partnership with Sheffield University for FLiP, and other programmes (‘Within My Reach’ and ‘Time to Connect’ ), dependant on needs.

Thanks to everyone who has been involved in group-work delivery over the past few months and well done Debbie.

Mopping up tears as well as spills…

Those of you who work in prisons, in prison visits halls or in prison visitors centres will know that visits from family and close friends are the most important thing in the lives of many prisoners. And those of you who work with families in the community know that for many families, visits can be both a joy, and sometimes, a burden. For families who are separated by prison walls, the hour or so together of a ‘social visit’ , or the occasional ‘family day’, are the glue that keeps a family together – bonds which can provide essential hope and motivation to carry on. And we know that being able to sit down together, like an ‘ordinary family’, to share food and a few laughs, is the most important thing for many prisoners’ families. So the work of our staff and volunteers who serve the teas and coffees, prepare and serve simple meals, and who – in the words of Helen Blasdale, our Catering Manager – ‘mop up tears as well as spills’ – is vital. Being served with a smile in a prison visitors centre or visits hall can lighten a heavy load, and for a little while, help people forget that they are in a prison.

A couple of months ago, we ran a consultation event with families who attend our monthly Peer Support Group in London about what they want from our catering services in prison visits halls and visitors centres. We’re using it to inform our planning for the year ahead. I am now pleased to announce that we have secured a grant from the Esmee Fairbairn Trust to carry out service user consultations in a number of prisons about the quality of their visiting experience, with a special focus on catering. I am also delighted to share with you the new look that we are developing for visits catering. We listened to our service users, and told our designer what they wanted. And here it is (see next page)

The Family Tree Café will be the ‘premium’ brand for Pact Visits Catering, where we are able to agree new partnerships with prisons to build new facilities, or make big improvements to existing ones.

We are phasing out ‘Pact Lunch’ as a brand. It was fun whilst it lasted.

We have secured some investment funding to improve visits catering, in partnership with prisons. If your prison in interested, let your line manager or Helen know, and we would be happy to speak to them.

Not every catering service we operate will become a Family Tree café . And we want to make sure all our catering services are excellent. Helen Blasdale is visting all of our services to hear from staff and review how we can keep improving what we offer.

Letter to the Prisons Minister

I’ve written to Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah to urge him to implement the recommendation of the Farmer Report, and to prioritise in particular our recommendation that all prisons should have a ‘communications gateway’ for families who are concerned about the safety or well-being of a loved one in prison. The Pact Helpline takes dozens of call every month from family members who are fearful for the safety of relatives in prison, but who can’t get through to the right people, or get their concerns taken seriously. Where we have staff, the Helpline may contact you to ask you to look into the family member’s concern, but this isn’t always possible, and of course, we are not in every prison. I will be meeting regularly with officials from MoJ and HMPPS to press for improvements for families & prisoners and to explore solutions.

Have a ‘Light Lunch’ once a week

Did you know that Pact was one of the founder members of CLINKS, the umbrella organisation for criminal justice voluntary sector organisations? It was originally called ‘London Community Links’. CLINKS do great work on behalf of the whole criminal justice voluntary sector, including a weekly e-bulletin which they call ‘Light Lunch.’

To make life a bit easier for you, we will be providing CLINKS with the names and work email addresses of staff in all our services, so that you can receive this bulletin. So if it appears in your inbox, please do have a look at it, and don’t assume that it is SPAM. If you don’t receive this, but would like to, call Helen at CLINKS on 0207 383 0966.


Do follow Pact on Social Media - we are on Twitter and Facebook. Pact has now got over 6,000 followers on Twitter. I also use Twitter to promote Pact and have over 1000 followers – so please do follow me as well and help spread the word about our great work.

Prisoners Sunday & Prisons Week

Prisoners Sunday is on 8th October. It’s a day of fundraising, volunteer recruitment, and prayer, and it kicks off Prisons Week. Naomi Farrell is co-ordinating our campaign and would love to hear from any staff or volunteers who are open to the idea of going out and giving a short Pact talk in a church. We have a script you can use and can even put you in touch with a local church. Churches are often looking for speakers throughout the year, so if we miss Prisoners Sunday, its fine, please do get in touch anyway. Naomi has a special email address for this: [email protected]


And finally..

Sometimes you just need to talk…

The work we do is challenging. And I hope you always feel you can speak to your manager. But sometimes its good to have someone who is a bit removed, and impartial, who will listen and help you talk things out. It’s healthy and sensible to do this, especially if things are getting on top of you. In our line of work, we all need a little space to reflect.


Pact stands for Prison Advice & Care Trust. The most important word in our name is ‘Care’. We care for people who are hurting and struggling, day after day, and it can take its toll, especially if things at home are difficult too, as they can be for all of us from time to time.

You all know I am sure that the first rule of caring for others is to be mindful of our own needs and of what we are carrying. Self-care is not an indulgence, but core to good, safe practice.

So please, don’t forget our Care First Service: free and confidential advice, information and counselling for all Pact staff. It can be accessed on the phone, on 0800 174319, and online at The service is available 24/7, 365 days a year. You don’t need to ask permission from your manager or let us know you are using the service. Pact pays for the service, but it is independent, and calls are treated in confidence and in accordance with the BACP ethical framework. When you call, they will ask you for the name of your employer, to make sure that you are entitled to free support. But please trust me when I tell you that I have no idea who uses this service, or why, unless they tell me, and I would in any case regard use of Care First as a sign that someone is being sensible and looking after themselves.

Thanks for reading this. Hope you’ve find it interesting & useful. Here are the Pixie Guidelines if you need them.

Keep Safe everyone, Andy