300 calls from 60 prisons: a busy start for PET’s Advice Line

Home > 300 calls from 60 prisons: a busy start for PET’s Advice Line

John Lister, Advice Manager | 07 July 2020

Prison learner with textbook

In April, we asked supporters for their help to launch PET’s first ever freephone Advice Line – the quickest, most reliable way to offer support to learners during the lockdown in prisons.

Their response was incredible. Thanks to them and the support of a number of grant-making trusts, we raised the £34,000 needed to launch and run the Advice Line for four months.

Here our Advice Manager John Lister reflects on the launch and the impact it has had for learners in prison:

“Just over two months after launching the PET Advice Line, we have already taken over 300 calls from nearly 150 people across 60 prisons.

The vast majority of callers have been people in prison, but we have also heard from family members and prison staff too.

Calls range from quick questions of around two minutes to more detailed conversations that can last over 20. The average length is about seven minutes.

“I was taking calls recently, and the first was in many ways typical.

“Katy (name changed) rang from HMP Bronzefield to find out what kind of business courses we offer at PET. I asked a little more about her situation – her previous study, her interests and ambitions – and we discussed the options available to her. After the call, I got in touch with staff at the prison to get the ball rolling on Katy’s funding application.

“Other calls included chasing up undelivered course materials (later found by staff in the prison’s post room!); advising one learner about continuing education after release to Manchester; and explaining to a prisoner’s mother how her son can study in HMP Dovegate.

Not only has the Advice Line allowed us to maintain contact with existing and potential learners, it has improved the way we work.

“With a small team, there was a limit to the number of prisons that we could visit, even before the lockdown, and speaking to learners could be tricky. Calls were only available from wing payphones or occasionally set up by prison staff.

“The new freephone Advice Line, often used in-cell, has opened up a whole new level of support. It gives us the opportunity to offer detailed advice and guidance on courses, making an application, learning progression, and even careers and employment.

The wide range of queries has opened our eyes to the many different ways in which we can support learners.

“And while we know from the calls that enduring the 23-hour lockdown can be grim, we are also constantly reminded of the enormous impact of education, through the stories and journeys and thank-yous learners share with us.”

Learners, their family and friends, and prison and education staff can speak to John or another member of our advice team for free on 0800 048 7520 on:

Tuesdays: 10:00-12:00 and 14:00-16:00
Thursdays: 10:00-12:00 and 14:00-18:00

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