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Female offenders with a brain injury at HMP Drake Hall near Stafford are receiving support from a specialist Linkworker from the Disabilities Trust Foundation – the first scheme of its type in a women’s prison in the UK. Someone with a brain injury may experience poor memory, lack of concentration, aggression, problems sleeping and other difficulties which impact on their everyday lives and may make it difficult to engage with rehabilitation programmes.

The pilot Linkworker service - officially launched this week - will deliver direct one-to-one support to women with brain injuries and develop partnerships with health, social care, probation, homeless, and drug and alcohol services to ensure each woman has the appropriate network in place on discharge from prison.

Each person with a brain injury will be identified on admission, using the Foundation’s simple Brain Injury Screening Index(BISI) questionnaire before being referred to the specialist Linkworker. Prison staff will also be provided with brain injury training and given simple tips – speaking more slowly without distractions to allow information to be processed, suggesting diaries and written reminders to assist with memory problems - to support the women concerned.

This two-year, £107,000 pilot scheme aims to establish whether specialist support following a brain injury, even years after it was sustained, means an individual has a greater chance of engaging with services, integrating with the community and breaking the cycle of re-offending. Funded largely by the Barrow Cadbury Trust and The Pilgrim Trust, the service mirrors the brain injury Linkworker services previously provided by the Disabilities Trust Foundation within male prisons and Young Offender Institutions.

Justice Minister Dr Phillip Lee said: “This is an excellent scheme and I am pleased that staff at Drake Hall are working with the Disabilities Trust Foundation to help to provide specialist support for vulnerable offenders.

Our hard-working prison staff provide vital support to prisoners with complex mental health issues every day and we continue to deliver and support mental health training for officers.We are committed to helping female offenders reform and live law-abiding lives.”

Helen Cadbury of the Barrow Cadbury Trust, said: “This pioneering work is highly relevant to the Barrow Cadbury Trust given our focus on addressing the distinct needs of girls and women involved in crime - and the project is getting off to a flying start.”

Sarah Staniforth, of the Pilgrim Trust, said: “Given the Pilgrim Trust’s focus on supporting early intervention for vulnerable girls and women, we believe this pioneering project has great potential and we will be following its progress with interest.”

HMP Drake Hall Governor Carl Hardwick said: “We’re delighted to be piloting this project with the Disabilities Trust Foundation and we hope it will make a real difference to women with a brain injury.”

The aims of the project at HMP Drake Hall are to:

  • identify women with a brain injury who enter custody
  • develop a care pathway and provide dedicated support to women with a brain injury
  • raise awareness of brain injury within the female prison population
  • explore causal links between self-harm, violence and brain injury in the female prison population

The Foundation is commissioning an external evaluation of the pilot programme, as well as undertaking a research study to look at the relationship between traumatic brain injury(TBI), female offenders, violent offending, in-prison behavioural problems and reoffending rates.

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