The key worker scheme is being rolled out across the entire closed male estate, with prison officers managing around 5-6 offenders on a one-to-one basis. The scheme allows prison officers more time and flexibility to support offenders during their time in custody, providing them with the best chance to engage in rehabilitation, ultimately reducing reoffending and keeping the public safer.
Prison Officer Leeming at HMP Isis has been a key worker champion since March 2018. In this blog post, she’ll go through what it takes to become an effective key worker.
What impact does a key worker have on offenders?
It’s a way for offenders to build relationships with officers that are healthy and make them feel comfortable speaking to prison officers. It’s a process to reduce violence, reduce drug-use, give offenders a point of contact with an officer to help them cope with custodial life.
I work with a group of 6 offenders, I meet them once a week on a one-on-one basis and talk to them about anything that’s been going on since the last time I saw them, and see if there’s anything I can help with. I help them set both short-term and long-term targets.
For example, we had an offender who was known for being very violent but since having a key worker he’s gone significantly longer without getting into trouble with violence.
The feedback we’ve had from the offenders we’re working with has been very positive. Offenders feel a lot more supported, it's helping them to become more focused and prepare for life after release. The scheme gives them targets, helps them set goals and it gives them something to aim for.
What does a key worker champion do?
At the start of 2018, the key worker scheme wasn’t part of the Prison Officer Entry Level Training (POELT) so it was the champions' role to give prison officers a day and a half training to teach them the skills needed for the scheme.
Every prison does it slightly differently, but we have a group of champions and all the staff know who we are and can contact us if they have any queries. I’m also constantly on hand to give guidance and support to all key workers in the prison.
What skills do you need to become a key worker?
Anyone can be a key worker - you need to have good listening skills, patience and empathy. I think you need to see the positives in a negative situation, which isn’t easy but an important skill all prison officers need.
As a key worker champion you run the key worker training, so you need resilience, patience, and to be able to motivate both the offenders you keywork and also other staff members.
Are you interested in the role of a key worker or key worker champion in prison? Join the prison service, and make a difference to people’s lives.