Elizabeth Russell Prize 2016 Scottish Faculty of Public Health

Partners make every opportunity count and win top Public Health award

Innovative work by NHS Grampian, Action for Children and Families Outside to help improve the health and wellbeing of children and families affected by imprisonment has won the Elizabeth Russell prize. Presented each year at the Scottish Faculty of Public Health’s annual conference, the prize recognises the best example of a collaborative approach to public health. The award is in the name of an eminent leader, Elizabeth Russell, Professor of Social Medicine at the University of Aberdeen until 2001. The award was collected by Dorothy Ross-Archer, on behalf of the interdisciplinary team named below*

Families of those in prison can become socially excluded and find it harder to access services as a result. Working together, NHS Grampian, Families Outside and Action for Children developed a simple set of questions to encourage families to focus on how they ‘look after themselves’ and get the support they may need. Questions are shared with families in the welcoming environment of the Family Centre & Help Hub at HMP & YOI Grampian, or during home visits. The responses of families can trigger conversation and inform discussion as an integral part of the support they receive, routinely, through Families Outside and Action for Children to make every opportunity count. .Assistance can then be built into current and future contact with the families.

A person in need of urgent support often chooses to ignore their own needs and symptoms. This is especially so, if they are already feeling social isolated and are vulnerable. Building a trusting relationship offering emotional support, the family support staff can help people to start to ‘look after themselves’ subtly, in a very soft and non threatening way. In addition, the seeds are sown to enable the person to take action over time to reduce the likelihood he or she will need urgent support in future. The client gets a better sense of being empowered to get back on a more even keel, and to look after him or herself. This can be as ‘simple’ as getting help to focus on their own needs, whilst they are also contending with the effects of a loved one’s imprisonment. It can also involve assisting them to make and attend appointments, and to help them to talk to health professionals about the problems they are experiencing. The person feels more comfortable in understanding options around not just health but other key services such as housing and social work.

Our collaboration with Families Outside and Action for Children is benefiting a group of people who are often overlooked.  Our approach can be adapted to the needs of other community planning and community justice partners. This prestigious national award should give other partners additional confidence that using this approach helps make every opportunity count for people who need health and wellbeing support and for those who deliver services.

Prof Nancy Loucks OBE, Chief Executive of Families Outside, said “Imprisonment can have an enormous impact on the children and families left behind, but the stigma of imprisonment often prevents them from seeking support. We are delighted with the work our Regional Family Support Coordinator Lindsay Jessiman has been doing with Action for Children and NHS Grampian to address this and hope that the recognition from this Prize will inspire further innovation from others.”

Ann Darlington, Operational Director for Children’s Services at Action for Children Scotland said: “This is very welcome recognition of the excellent work taking place at HMP Grampian’s Family Centre Hub. The collaborative approach has already made a big difference to excluded families and those affected by prison, a group which is often overlooked, and we are proud to be working alongside a number of our partners in delivering it.”

Allister Purdie Governor of HMP and YOI Grampian said; “Families play a significant part in the support and resettlement of the people who come into our care. This innovative and collaborative piece of work, to help improve the health and well-being of families, supports the vision of our Partners, to make every opportunity count and that of the SPS’s of Unlocking Potential and Transforming lives. It also helps to provide a stronger platform for individuals to contribute positively to their communities on release.”

In working with families affected by imprisonment, our collaboration adds another dimension within the support afforded through community justice to offenders themselves and to victims of crime.

This has been a terrific mutual learning experience helping us continuously improving the ways, as agencies, we make every opportunity count with those who are vulnerable. We are continuing to grow this work to improve opportunities for people to make the most of their health and wellbeing, and to inform our partnership approaches in a range of areas and settings.

elizabeth-russell-prize-2016

* Lindsay Jessiman Families Outside, Dorothy Ross-Archer, Jackie Fleming and Linda Leighton Beck (NHS Grampian) and Pamela Simpson (Action for Children, not in picture)

Dr Linda Leighton-Beck, Head of Social Inclusion
November 2016

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