Supporting fathers in prison to be the best they can be

Posted on Tuesday 3rd March 2020
A group of professionals from Evelina London beside a sign that reads "Welcome to HMP Brixton" and a doll which is used in training.

Catherine Allen, family nurse, Birsen Hilmi, family resettlement team leader for Pact and Emma Burgess, family nurse partnership supervisor

Nurses are helping expectant fathers who are serving sentences in prison to be better dads thanks to a unique project run by Evelina London and Her Majesty’s Prison Brixton.

Evelina London's family nurse partnership team provide workshops and role play to prepare dads-to-be in Brixton Prison for positive parenting, including advice on how to support their partner, stages in child development, how to plan activities and the importance of play.

Emma Burgess, family nurse partnership supervisor, said: "We welcome all men in prison who have recently had or are about to have a baby. It’s all about reaching out early, encouraging expectant fathers to feel more connected to their babies, confident and considerate towards their children, and influencing the way they interact with their child when they go home. They may wonder, “What can I offer a baby?” These sessions demonstrate how important it is for them to be in their children’s lives and to feel supported to be the best dad they can be."

Feedback from the expectant fathers has been overwhelmingly positive. Asked what was useful about the workshops, one dad-to-be said he learnt to “watch the tone of my voice” and that “babies pick up on positive and negative vibes”. Another expectant father learnt to “have more fun with my kids”.

Birsen Hilmi, family resettlement team leader for Pact (Prison Advice and Care Trust), who are based at Brixton Prison, said: “To live in prison – it’s a tough environment. But Evelina London’s nurses have pulled them away from all that. They run intimate, caring sessions that make the men feel like they can be an effective parent – a dad. It’s fantastic to see these guys learning how to change nappies on baby dolls and to watch as the nurses use different sized fruit to show them how big the baby will get. The nurses are so sensitive and non-judgemental and have shown real empathy throughout.”

Our Family Nurse Partnership also provides an intensive, early intervention home visiting programme to first time young mothers under the age of 24. They won NHS Lambeth Clinical Commissioning Group’s Innovation in Lambeth award at the Lammy Awards in September 2019. The were also visited by our Patron, The Duchess of Cambridge, at Sunshine House.