Our Lives with Others: An evaluation of trauma, bereavement and loss developments at HMYOI Polmont.

Nina Vaswani, Sally Paul and Yanna Papadodimitraki

Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice, University of Strathclyde

Executive Summary

Young people in custody are known to have experienced higher rates of loss and bereavement than the general population, and are more likely to experience multiple and traumatic bereavements (Finlay & Jones, 2000; Vaswani, 2014). In addition, young people in custody often have childhoods characterised by trauma, adversity and disruption (Blades, Hart, Lea, & Willmott, 2011; Vaswani, 2015). Dealing with trauma, bereavement and loss in custody poses a substantial challenge for individuals and institutions and the presence of these issues has implications for preventing offending, regime management and for desistance, reintegration and rehabilitation. In order to respond to these issues, HMYOI Polmont implemented a series of planned developments aimed at adopting an ‘establishment-wide’ approach to supporting the young men through trauma, bereavement and loss. The three-pronged approach, termed ‘Our Lives with Others’ involved:

  •  Awareness-raising training for all staff in the establishment, regardless of their role or responsibilities, delivered by Barnardo’s.
  •  A small pilot service, ‘Here & Now’, providing specialist assessment and direct intervention to young men affected by trauma, bereavement and loss, also provided by Barnardo’s.
  •  Efforts to create a more coherent, coordinated and ‘trauma-informed’ response across the entire organisation.

The Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice was commissioned to undertake a 12-month study of these developments. The service developments and research were funded by the Robertson Trust and the Scottish Prison Service.

The aim of the research was to:

  •  Generate new learning to further knowledge and understanding about the trauma, bereavement and loss needs of young people involved in offending
  •  Increase understanding about effective interventions by monitoring the experience and impact of the Here & Now service and the staff awareness training
  •  To document and describe the OLWO approach, processes and outcomes to inform SPS service delivery and any formal commissioning and tendering processes in the future.

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