OTs can help Prison Service meet requirements of Care Act

Report outlines value of employing occupational therapists within prisons.

Published on 19th March 2018

The Prison Service can use occupational therapists to meet the requirements of the Care Act 2014, it has been claimed.

The Royal College of Occupational Therapists has produced a report on the value of occupational therapy in prisons which adds that embedding occupational therapy within prison and resettlement pathways can build in protective factors to reduce the risk of reoffending.

“Prisons utilising occupational therapists’ skills at a wider level benefits the whole prison population. Occupational therapists are able to advise on broader issues such as managing risk, safeguarding and unmet health and social care needs across the prison,” says the report.

It highlights that the two major challenges facing prisons are high re-offending rates and an increasing prison population living with one or more health conditions. Yet the prison estate is not appropriately designed to address the needs of people who require personal or nursing care.

In England and Wales between 2004 and 2014 prisoners aged 60 or over were the fastest-growing age group (125% increase) and the Mental Health Foundation estimates that over 80% of older prisoners have a serious illness or disability, with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases the most common.

“Former lifestyles including substance misuse, poor diet, stressful lives, smoking and alcohol excess and the added stressors of imprisonment, make the ageing prison population unique. Studies suggest a 10 year difference between the overall health of prisoners and the general population,” said the report.

“These prisoners are often cared for in inadequate surroundings; are not able to access facilities outside of their cell; and can remain in acute hospital beds whilst appropriate facilities are found. This places a wider financial burden on the NHS and the Justice departments,” it adds.

However, the RCOT says the prison services can address these challenges by designing resettlement services to build in protective factors to reduce the risk of reoffending, ensuring the environmental design supports the productive engagement of prisoners with health and rehabilitation services and reviewing the health and social care provision to address gaps and minimise risk to vulnerable prisoners.

“Occupational therapists have the skills and expertise to deliver these solutions,” says RCOT.

In fact, occupational therapists within prison services can promote health and wellbeing for offenders, design effective interventions to support individuals to take up opportunities within the system and build in protective factors to reduce risk of reoffending.

Furthermore, the prison service can use occupational therapists to:

1. Advise on the design of buildings such as work sheds to encourage productive engagement and accessibility.

2. Minimise potential risks in the prison environment through the provision of equipment and adaptations.

3. Provide advice on modifications and new designs for prison estates.

4. Meet the requirements of the Care Act 2014 (England).

“In response to the need to manage a growing prison population living with long term conditions, occupational therapists are already assessing for care and support needs, providing equipment and adaptations and advising on strategies and techniques to manage personal care and other activities of daily living within the prison environment,” says the report.

The report concludes that occupational therapists within prison services provide cost effective solutions for prisoners’ care (single-handed care, telecare, prison design advice), forge partnerships with prison healthcare services to identify current and unmet needs of the prison population living with long-term conditions and promote an enabling ethos within care and support plans for prisoners with long-term conditions.

Prisons: The value of occupational therapy



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