Soldiers’ Charity helps jailed veterans access education

20 Apr 2017

Over 40 ex-armed service personnel have been awarded access to arts and education in prison, thanks to a generous grant from ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.

The Soldiers’ Charity, which supports British Army soldiers and veterans, awarded Prisoners’ Education Trust a grant of £15,000 in November 2016. Through this, PET has been able to provide courses for ex-soldiers across England and Wales who want to improve their wellbeing in prison and enhance their life chances after release.

PET has funded veterans to study qualifications such as GCSEs, A Levels and vocational certificates; in subjects including psychology, law, book-keeping and sign language.

One recipient, ‘Charlie’, 45, served in the Royal Artillery in the 1980’s, during which time he witnessed three terrorist attacks and lost some of his close friends and colleagues. This was followed by the loss of his best friend in an accident, after which Charlie was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“I was left with the emotional scars of these events,” wrote Charlie in his application to PET. “I had lost everything I had cherished overnight.”

During his eight months in prison Charlie has begun to address his depression and has, in his words “become a new man”. Through The Soldiers’ Charity funding, he is now studying for a qualification in counselling. He hopes to study further after release, with a view of becoming a professional counsellor.

“I am a good listener and I believe my personal experience will help me to help others to deal with their depression and anguish,” writes Charlie. “Just listening to people helps them to address their personal problems and mental scars.”

‘Bill’, 46, served as an officer in the Parachute Regiment in the 1990’s. He discovered creative talents in prison, and has won awards for painting, embroidery and creative writing. Through The Soldiers’ Charity funding, he is now embarking on the first module of an Open University Arts degree.

“The sense of enjoyment and satisfaction that creativity gives me is immeasurable,” Bill writes in his application. “The ability to paint and to study this subject will not only give me a basis and platform for a career on release, it will also enable me to positively focus on achieving something that will benefit not only myself but friends, family and others.”

PET has also used the funding to provide seven people with arts and hobbies materials, which allows prisoners to paint, build models and engage in other activities while locked in their cells. One of these is ‘Vincent’, who is 85 and served in the Royal Air Force during the 1950s and 60s. He wrote to PET requesting funding for several painting sets. “The painting will keep my mind active and my eye sight focused,” he wrote. “I have also suffered from depression whilst in jail, so these activities will help with my mental health. It will also occupy my time in a constructive way and will mean I can pass on the completed paintings to members of my family.”

Charlie, Bill and Vincent are three of a sizable number of veterans in UK prisons, who some research estimate make up 10% of the prison population.

Rod Clark, Chief Executive, Prisoners’ Education Trust, says: “We know that people who have served in the Armed Forces often face specific difficulties connected with mental health and adjusting to civilian life which can contribute to them committing an offence. But when in prison, these individuals can derive huge benefits from being able to spend their time constructively. Through engaging in arts and education they can improve their wellbeing during their sentence, and build the skills and motivation to move on to a crime-free future after release.”

Robin Bacon, Chief of Staff, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity says: “The Soldiers’ Charity is here to help all soldiers and veterans for life, with genuine need, not want, being our guiding principle. Prisoners’ Education Trust undertakes hugely important work in helping those who require further educational assistance with literacy and numeracy skills, giving them a greater chance at rehabilitation when they are released from prison; something which the Charity feels it is vital to support.”

Notes to Editors

  1. Prisoners’ Education Trust provides advice and funding for over 2,500 people per year for distance learning courses in subjects and levels not generally available in prisons, as well as for arts and hobbies grants.
  2. PET also carries out research, informed by prisoner learners, to improve prison education policies.
  3. ABF The Soldiers’ Charity supports soldiers and veterans from the British Army and their immediate families. It also make grants to individuals through their Regiments and Corps and supports a wide range of specialist charities that sustain the British Army ‘family’, both at home and around the world.
  4. In November 2016, The Soldiers’ Charity awarded PET a grant of £15,000 to provide distance learning courses and arts materials for people in prison. As of April 2017, PET has used this funding to provide over 40 ex-service personnel with access distance learning courses and arts materials whilst they are serving their prison sentences.
  5. For further information and case studies, please contact PET’s Media Manager Katy Oglethorpe on katy@prisonerseducation.org.uk or 020 3752 5676.