Forest Bank works with Samaritans to break the virtual barrier

March 15, 2021

Forest Bank trains six new listeners with the Samaritans

Forest Bank works with Samaritans to break the virtual barrier

When Covid-19 started to affect the prison service in general and lockdown came into effect within the community it quickly became apparent that this would have an impact on the Samaritan/Listener service run via Safer Custody at HMP Forest Bank.


The Listener service is an initiative set up by the Samaritans in which they train several prisoners in order to offer support and guidance to their fellow inmates should they ever need it. This service is provided in several Sodexo and public prisons across the UK. Prisons aim to have enough Listeners available round the clock, for anyone who needs them. Support is given in private to allow complete confidentiality. The policy on confidentiality is the same as it is for Samaritans volunteers. Knowing that the service is completely private often gives people in prison the courage to ask for help and talk about what is getting to them. Even after a Listener has left prison, their work as a Listener must remain completely confidential.


Listeners are not paid and do not receive any form of benefit for their role.


Claire Proctor, Safer custody Manager at Forest Bank became concerned knowing that as a large local establishment who receive a large number of new residents daily there was going to be a high number of residents who were at high risk of self-harm/suicide and would benefit from the Listener service. The prison receives many who are remanded/sentenced by the courts for all types of offences and also licence recalls from the police who are again always a high risk.


Claire mentioned: “Due to COVID-19 and the restrictions in place I knew that this was going to bring some problems in training new residents to become listeners. To add to the difficulties several of our trained listeners were released or were required to be transferred for there own progression.


“I had many conversations with the lead Samaritan David where we discussed the best way forward in how we would be able to train new residents. “


With the fantastic support from Gadri Audhali the Chaplaincy Manager and Paul Leary the Chapel PCO at Forest Bank, Claire was able to commit to running the training sessions via Teams in the chapel 2 days a week over a 3-week period. Gadri and Paul completed the training weekly with the 6 residents and ensured all technical difficulties were overcome.


In addition to this Claire also arranged a weekly phone call session paid for by the establishment where the Listeners could contact the lead Samaritan, David, at home to discuss any issues they may have had during their listener call outs that week, this has proven to be a great success and support for our Listeners.


Last week Forest Bank completed the graduation for the 6 new Listeners via Teams. The first prison to continue training during the difficult restrictions we are currently facing thus demonstrating their commitment to providing the very best support and quality of life they can for their residents.








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