The London Housing Foundation is proud to support PACT, the Prison Advice and Care Trust. Our grant will be used to help them develop their peer support programme. This is a new initiative that supports people to help their peers, recognising that if you have been through a situation you are uniquely qualified to help others in that same situation. This is Bola’s story (names have been changed)
When Bola left Nigeria and moved to London with her husband and two children she had hoped for a fresh start. Her relationship with her husband had been turbulent, and though she hoped things would improve once they moved, the situation at home became worse. Bola was subjected to frequent violent attacks by her husband and when she found out that she was pregnant, she decided to flee.
Bola’s husband had possession of her passport so she obtained false travel documents, and when she attempted to use them at the airport she was arrested. Bola was sentenced to two years prison.
On the day she arrived at prison she was met by Charlie, one of Pact’s Family Engagement Workers. She told Charlie that she was pregnant and that she had two children at home who she did not want to lose contact with. Charlie made contact with social workers and found out that Bola’s two children were now being cared for by her mother. She spoke with Bola’s mother and organised for her to bring the children in for a family visit.
During her sentence, Bola saw her children every few weeks and they were able to keep a close, loving relationship. She gave birth to a baby girl who stayed with her throughout her sentence and Charlie worked with Bola and social services to ensure that when she was released she would have accommodation and the support she needed to keep custody of her baby.
Today, Bola is out of prison, living in her own accommodation with her two children and her baby girl. She stayed in touch with Pact and attended the Peer Support Group on a regular basis. After a few months she began training with the Pact helpline team and now volunteers three times a week, providing support and information on their national helpline to advise other people who have been affected by imprisonment. She is also now qualifying as a befriender and supports others who attend Pact’s monthly Peer Support Group. The helpline team were also able to work with Bola on key skills such as CV writing and IT skills, and are supporting Bola in her search for employment.
For more information about Pact go to https://www.prisonadvice.org.uk/