Engelsborg Family House – the future for family work in the UK Prison servicePosted: August 15, 2012
Sandy Watson is an experienced Grundtvig promoter, who has successfully run a variety of different projects since 2008.
Sandy works as a Children and Families Development Manager at G4S Care and Justice Services HMP Wolds. Her work is about helping prisoners and their families who often live on the edge of society to make changes in their lives. She has managed to develop the whole of the Children and Family work at HMP Wolds and has become involved in supporting other prisons in taking their family work forward.
Through Grundtvig’s Visits and Exchanges funding, Sandy undertook job shadowing at the Family House at Engelborg, Denmark. This institution, a first of its kind in Denmark, hosts up to 5 families where one of the parents is serving a prison sentence. The family has to agree to various interventions and to work with practitioners throughout their stay (average of 3 months). Each individual member of the family, including children, is offered counselling and practical support.
Sandy emphasised the great importance of visiting the Family House at Engelsborg, not just for her personal and professional development, but also for her work on changing the Criminal Justice System in the UK.
“I have visited the Half-Way Family House at Engelsborg, Denmark on many occasions and what I have seen has completely inspired me and helped me formulate my vision for family work at HMP Wolds. With the help of a Grundtvig grant I wanted to go back and spend a week at the House to discover what was put into practice on a daily basis and to see if the concept really did work.“
During her stay in Denmark, and through shadowing the work of the Engelsborg staff, Sandy became more familiar with the concept of working with the whole family to prepare its members for a more harmonious re-union with an ex-offender parent. Sandy admits that it was a fantastic learning experience:
“I had held quite an idealised picture of the Family House from my earlier brief visits and so it was fitting that the week I was there an offender was moved from the house and back to prison for non-compliance. Tough love! But after all, I was impressed at the total support and dedication of the staff and could sense their dilemma at having to send a young teenager back to her mother when dad had to return to custody.
I believe that Engelsborg Family House model is the future for family work in the UK Prison service but we are a long way from seeing it come to fruition.“
Since her return to the UK, Sandy has been heavily involved in sharing best practice around family support for prisoners and ex-offenders in Denmark. Impressed by the uniqueness of the methods applied in Engelsborg, the Prison Video Magazine agreed to publish the outcome of the project and sent DVDs to all the prisons in the country. The DVD contained footage from the visits to the Family House and has already been seen by many offenders, hopefully encouraging them to consider the benefits of intensive family work.
Sandy feels confident that the time spent on the visit was of a great benefit:
“The opportunity to job shadow helped me to see the importance of therapy and counselling to support the family and I have begun to look in earnest as to how we can implement this in our own prisons in the UK. Thank you Grundtvig!”“
Why not undertake a Visit and Exchange?
Visits & Exchanges grants help individuals involved in adult education exchange best practice with their European counterparts.
Find out more about the opportunities available to you at one of our Information Days!
My name is Kamila and I am an Assistant Project Manager in the Grundtvig Individual Mobility Team. Prior to that, I have worked with Leonardo da Vinci Mobility and TOI projects. I have recently graduated from Aston University with a Master’s of Science degree in European Union and International Relations.