Innovative practice at HMP Styal Mother and Baby Unit

Posted by Kay Steven / Tuesday 15 July 2014 / Case studies

Supporting Mums and babies together

Our Mother and Baby Unit combines parenting support, targeted intervention work and high quality nursery provision. We assess  Mums’ needs upon arrival so we can put a plan in place to provide them with opportunities to overcome the challenges in their lives. This can include basic baby care, budgeting, communication skills, issues of bereavement and loss, substance misuse and a wide range of other factors.

Each Mum’s plan depends on courses available within the prison and group work courses available from Action for Children. These include The Incredible Years Baby and Toddler parenting courses, The Freedom Programme (addressing Domestic Abuse and relationships), Baby Massage and Barclays Money Skills (budgeting, banking and debt advice) and ‘Food for Thought’ Cooking on a budget.

Our nursery received an 'Outstanding' at its last Ofsted inspection. Babies receive high quality, stimulating care where their developmental needs are met through regular outings to groups, activities and play resources outside the prison. Nursery staff are highly qualified and coordinate support plans with Parent Support keyworkers. In all our work, Mums and babies are the team’s focus.

Family visiting – an innovative approach

Last year we received funding from The ELIZABETH JARMAN® Foundation to develop an innovative family visiting project. The foundation donated ‘Bags for Families’ which contain materials for children to construct their own ‘safe space’, much like a den, at the family visiting days. The visiting children were then able to take these resources home and recreate that ‘safe space’ to maintain a link with their Mum.

Conducted in partnership with Elizabeth Jarman, the project achieved its aims of:

  • reducing the stress experienced by children visiting their mother in prison; 
  • improving children’s chances of coming to terms with the loss of their parent to imprisonment;
  • increasing the chance of improving the children’s emotional and social development;
  • increasing both the mum’s and our staff’s understanding of the link between the environment and a child’s learning, development and well-being.

Since then, we have regular Family Days at the Mother and Baby House. We provide memorable and meaningful contact between Mums and their babies as well as with fathers, siblings and other significant family members.  By using the Mothers ‘home’ instead of the visiting hall, visiting children can spend time with their Mum in a friendly environment. It means that all the family are more relaxed and happy.

Our child centred ethos which underpins our values and practices, goes some way to alleviating the negative or institutional influences of the prison setting.  Due to preconceived notions and individual experiences of prison, some Mums can be very wary of staff and difficult to engage when they first arrive. We work hard to establish trusting and open relationships with parents so that we can work together for the child’s welfare and development. This partnership means that the babies we support have all the opportunities they would get in the outside world to develop, and can start to lay the foundations for a happy and healthy future. They have committed no crime, and deserve the same chances as any child.

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