Hackney probation worker reveals how former prisoners are supported during lockdown

Francesca Summerbell-Moore. Picture: Francesca Summerbell-Moore

Francesca Summerbell-Moore. Picture: Francesca Summerbell-Moore - Credit: Archant

A Hackney probation worker has revealed how technology is helping the service to continue supporting ex-prisoners during the coronavirus crisis.

Francesca Summerbell-Moore, a probation services officer, said most of the usual weekly meetings conducted with people who have been released from prison are now being held digitally.

Being in a home environment can actually make the users feel more comfortable to speak freely, she said.

“We check in on them to see everything is going okay, working corroboratively with them to create a plan which focuses on objectives,” Francesca said.

“With Covid, everything has been adapted, but the meetings are still very much important and taking place, just virtually.

“We are lucky to have these systems in place in this day and age where we can do that.”

Physical meetings are only conducted in instances were it has been identified for the particular needs of a user, Francesca added, with many of these from a safe distance on the doorstep.

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These check-ins are vital to build a rapport with the service users and a foundation of support for them outside of prison.

Psychology and criminology graduate Francesca added: “Everything has been affected, everyone and everything, and especially those who have just been released from prison.

“They have gone from custody to coming out but being told they have to stay at home.”

The probation service has been working on a case-by-case basis to ensure ex-offenders have what they need, which can range from providing food bank vouchers to enrolling them in further education programmes.

Francesca recently helped a service user get onto a digital course in construction: “It utilises your time at home when you don’t have so much to do, and he is more prepared when things go back to normal.”

“A lot of them don’t want to go on to reoffend. It’s not a hobby.

“They are worried about [the pandemic] as well, they want to stay at home and stay safe. They are normal people.”

Currently distance learning at the University of Portsmouth and being trained on the job, Francesca expects to be fully qualified by September and will then be able to deal with people categorised as high-risk.