Social care in Scottish prisons: the absence of social work

Susan Levy (Lead / Corresponding author), Fiona Campbell, Lynn Kelly, Fernando Fernandes

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    There is no formalised or structured social care in Scottish prisons which is impacting on the wellbeing and rights of prisoners. A Memorandum of Understanding between health and the prison service provides for the provision of health care in prisons, a social care equivalent is lacking.
    This paper will draw on a recent study that addressed the following questions:
    1) Current Context: How is social care currently conceived, experienced and practiced in Scottish prisons?
    2) Policy Context: What are the policy challenges/opportunities for providing social care in prisons?
    3) Future Context: What is the vision for the future of social care in Scottish prisons?
    The qualitative study used data from: semi-structured interviews in three prisons with prisoners (n= 8) and prison governors (n = 3), and an online survey circulated to all 31 Chief Officers of the Health and Social Care Integration Joint Boards in Scotland (33% completion). A grounded thematic analysis was used to analysis the full data set.
    Of concern, evidenced through our data, was the absence of social work within the prison environment. References to social work tended to refer to a lack of engagement with prisoners.
    Recommendations from the study include: social workers taking a lead role in assessing and coordinating social care in prisons. Policy, planning and programmes to be developed according to
    global practices delineated by the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which formulates disability as evolving, shaped by interactions with the person in their environment. The adoption of a holistic definition of social care that facilitates for pro-active purposeful activities and interventions that support the development of an affirming disabled identity framed by the ‘Six Principles of Emancipatory Social Care’. The development of
    approaches that empower and facilitate for the voice and agency of prisoners to be included in social care decision making.
    Our findings call for social work services to more effectively support prisoners with social care needs and to work more collaboratively with other professionals to ensure the seamless provision of services to prisoners in Throughcare: the move from the community into prison and back into the community.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages1
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019
    EventEuropean Conference on Social Work Research - Leuven University, Leuven , Belgium
    Duration: 10 Apr 201912 Apr 2019


    ConferenceEuropean Conference on Social Work Research


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