Father Figures: Safe Ground programme
Give a Book was privileged to go to a Safe Ground event the other day which highlighted a specific pilot parenting programme called Father Figures. Set in HMP & YOI Brinsford and supported by National Offender Management Service (NOMS) Father Figures is a unique and progressive parenting programme—young fathers, often teenagers themselves, are encouraged by an experienced facilitator—here Programme Manager Sallyann Ploughman—to consider their relationships with family, partner or ex-partner and to explore ways of communicating and building on their own strengths. They work in individual sessions and with group activities and, importantly, also work concurrently with the family and partners on the outside.
We heard presentations from everyone who has helped set up this innovative scheme–notably Charlie Weinberg from Safe Ground and Sallyann Ploughman herself who does the work with the young men. The importance of the ‘through the gate’ work was immediately evident, as were the overriding lessons that the young men and their families come away with, of the importance of communication and of rebuilding trust. It was exhilarating to hear about the programme but the best bit came when A, a currently serving prisoner, told of his own experience. Speaking cogently and clearly to the audience the benefits he had received were manifest. We also heard from B, the partner of an offender on the programme—and again, speaking clearly and movingly she was living proof of the effectiveness of the ‘outside the gate’ care and thoughtfulness that Father Figures has provided.
In the audience was a policeman. At one point he spoke up and addressed A—he told him he had known him for a long time from before, from the bad old days, and was clearly impressed with the changes he could see. He asked if A was looking for a job on release. A said that his priority was his family and getting a job. The policeman told him he would make an excellent mentor for those still on the other side and to get in touch when he came out. Not content, though, to leave it at that, the policeman and A got together there and then at the event and one can only imagine how much A will be able to give to and inspire the young people he will be helping as a result of this encounter. As Charlie said at the time, it was a magical moment: it said it all.
Gentle reader, you may wonder what Give a Book has to do with any of this—well, we give books, and book bags, for the young fathers to share with their children. And for them too. Sallyann said “I wish you could have seen the children’s faces when they were given their books, and what was even lovelier was going around and hearing some of the little ones either trying to read or getting the story read to them.” Before the books were handed out she had read a couple of stories and did a few action songs for Dads/Uncles/Brothers to join in with the children, “It was wonderful to see the concentration on the children’s faces as they listened. If it has encouraged 1 Father to read to their child I would be more than happy.”
More magic. We’re pleased to be part of it.