What’s it like to work in EDP’s prison substance misuse service?

Jodie Bance, social work placement student, talks about her experiences with our prison Substance Misuse Service.

“I have been fortunate enough to receive a social work placement with EDP’s Prison Substance  Misuse Team in Exeter. What has been apparent from day one is the sheer dedication from every member of the team. Working within a remand prison comes with its own challenges, with the ‘revolving door’ of prisoners meaning frequent referrals, high caseloads and never ending to-do lists. Even under the pressures of this fast-paced environment, it has been refreshing to see that the service users and their needs have always taken priority.

“A typical day within the team incorporates an array of services. This could include clinical observations, assessments, group work, one-to-one work, prescribing clinic, dispensing controlled medication…. the extensive list goes. The knowledge and skill set I have developed from this is indispensable. I have had the chance to support a service user throughout his prison sentence. Being part of his journey and someone he could trust was highly rewarding. I now understand the importance of building relationships, working collaboratively and giving the service user responsibility and empowerment. With more than 250 on the SMS caseload, this is what I noticed being achieved every day by the team on the wings. This is echoed through their person-centred approaches and non-judgmental attitudes, overlooking crimes service users may have committed and focusing upon their recovery.

“Unfortunately, being within a remand prison, the team are working with a high number of service users for short time frames. This is where the focal point of harm minimisation is imperative. This is something I thought very little about before my placement, but practicing within the service has extended my knowledge surrounding this area. Even if a service user is in for a week, each worker will make an extensive effort to discuss harm minimisation and safety, so any interaction is highly valuable. It is profoundly motivating to see the effort, support and advice each team member gives, even under these pressures. This is also re‑ected in their efforts to liaise with other agencies, including community providers and mental health teams, to ensure each of their clients has support in place when transitioning back to the community.

“I can honestly say that this placement has steered me in the direction of pursuing a career within the substance misuse sector. Working within the prison environment, I have met some amazing, diligent and welcoming individuals. Overall, it has been a truly positive experience, which has been extremely valuable and allowed me to develop my competence in working in this sector.”


Originally published in the February edition of Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust’s Quality Matters magazine.

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