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Programme launched to help front line prison officers support young adult inmates

11 Jan 2024 4 minute read
Officers at HMP Berwyn

A  project, is underway to help prison officers at HMP Berwyn get a deeper understanding of young offenders and the challenges they face both in prison and within wider society.

The project is a collaboration programme between Adult Learning Wales, HMP Berwyn (Wrexham), The Prison Officer’s Association (POA) WULF (Wales Union Learning Fund).

HMP Berwyn, alongside many of the UK’s Prison network has a high percentage of young adults (aged 18-25) within its walls, at HMP Berwyn alone, there are over 350 young adults.


These young adults are still developing into men, both physically and mentally, in an environment which is incredibly challenging for both the prisoners and the staff at the prison.

The idea behind the project is to give the prison officers an insight into potential mindset of the younger prisoners and offer support where possible around 4 key fundamentals:

· Understanding what Youth Work is.

· Understanding the positive role that a constant and reliable professional adult’s presence can have in the life of a Young Adult, based on values, trust, respect and being non- judgemental.

· Understanding Adolescence, Adverse Childhood Experiences, Neurodiverse as well as Understanding why Young Adults are more likely to be involved in Violence, Self-harm and Restraint.

· Learning new ways to communicate and de-escalate volatile situations and prevent harm.

The programme was launched in April 2023 and was initially piloted for 6 weeks to support 80 prison officers. Due to the success of the pilot, the programme has been extended to April 2024 to allow a further 150 members of staff to receive the input. 

In addition, the initiative will seek to address the issue of sustainability, by providing training to a cadre of experienced officer, who will mentor and support new entrants to the service in the future, ensuring that the knowledge delivered via the pilot continues to be disseminated to staff.  

The project is being led by Adult Learning Wales’s Youth and Community Playwork Team, under the direction of Kristian Losztyn, Youth Work Tutor and Curriculum Delivery Coordinator for Adult Learning Wales with the support of Sarah Collier, Youth Community and Playwork Associate Tutor. 


Kristian Losztyn said: “Every Friday morning, around 15 staff train with a youth worker tutor, including myself alongside a prison officer mentor, in a highly relational environment away from the ‘wings’.

“Reflections around each staff’s experience of being a young person was central to this model, where everyone is encouraged to find common ground and work towards building meaningful professional relationships and trust alongside the ‘5 Minute Intervention Framework’ staff use.

“Working towards becoming a responsible adult for the young people in HMP Berwyn was taught as potentially one the most powerful relationships they may ever form and the springboard to far greater and positive outcomes.”

The majority of the young adults at HMP Berwyn have been through Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which requires a high level of support, with maturation and wellbeing alongside, challenging conditions, due to being neuro diverse, and care leavers amongst other key factors, which staff benefit from knowledge and training on, especially in dealing with violent incidents.

UK first

Simon Keller: Head of Engagement at HMP Berwyn added: “Whilst focussing on prison officers there are also opportunities for all front-line staff both HMPPS and our Partners to take part, strengthening operational relationships. This is the first project of its kind in the UK Prison system, and although it is too early to see the direct outcomes of the programme, its ongoing impact will be evaluated during the programme and after the completion date in April 2024.”

Since the course has been running, the feedback from learners has been incredibly supportive and has allowed them to develop a greater insight around working with young adults inside the prison.

This collaborative partnership is just one of the many projects and partnerships across Wales that involves Adult Learning Wales’s Youth and Community Playwork Team.

To find out more about Adult Learning Wales’ Youth and Community Playwork Team, visit:

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