A diverse service for a diverse Population

20th April 2023

Chris Annison, Head of Services in London talks us through the importance of a diverse and flexible service

Diversity is a commonly used term when thinking about any group of people. However, the Phoenix Futures service at HMP Pentonville is an excellent example of how a service has to flex, develop and be responsive to change.

The complexities of a Cat B local remand jail always present problems for Service Managers to overcome, with unknown release dates and a regime which has to cater to all categories of serving prisoners.

The Phoenix service manages to provide a huge range of interventions for all prisoners at all stages of their sentence. The unsung heroes of the piece are the recovery workers who assess the needs of the clients and refer them onto the many different treatment paths available. Without this work none of the clients’ needs would be identified and the whole machine would stop working.

The other key component to the success of the Substance use team is the joint working and cooperation from HMPPS. The leadership at the prison are very knowledgeable concerning treatment for substance use and passionate about providing good outcomes for the people in their care.

The Incentivised Substance Free Living (ISFL) wing has a 60/40 split where 60% of the residents have a substance use treatment need. The Jubilee Recovery Group Programme is run here by Phoenix Futures quarterly. This provides the participants with a six-week group based opportunity to explore their relationship with substances. They support each other to investigate contributing factors to their struggles, such as mental health challenges or co-dependency with partners. They also look at the strengths and pitfalls of relationships with others, concerning their problematic behaviours around substances.

The second half of the programme guides the participants through the process of formulating a care-plan to navigate their path to a safer future. Different options are explored, and recognition is given to different approaches. The 12 Step model is introduced alongside other mutual aid options, and each member of the group is supported to engage in the way which suits them best.

The programme is realistic in its approach and offers tangible hope for an improved future through relapse prevention strategies and ensuring each participant is aware of where their support can be found.

Each person who completes the programme will leave with a detailed personalised plan for the future, which has been developed based on their own individual risks and needs.

Some participant’s feedback from the programme makes great reading… 

“It has taught me to believe in myself, be kind, give back and understand my mental health. I am actually beginning to like myself and as mad as it sounds, being here. (What) Phoenix Futures and … Sophia has invested in me has truly saved my life thank you so much.”


“I enjoyed and at times struggled searching my memories of the pain I caused and others have also caused me. But, growth has been immense and that feeling of change and possibilities which is new to me gives me the confidence to move forward” 


The feedback received, not only rewards the staff who deliver the programme. They use this to shape and develop the programme for future cohorts. The delivery thus evolves and improves, reacting to the needs of the clients. A truly responsive and effective intervention.

Looking at other treatment options in the prison, Phoenix look to engage everyone they can irrespective of the challenges. The work we do on G1 landing is a great example of how diverse our treatment can be. This is a specialist unit supporting individuals with complex needs due to neurodiversity challenges. 

Every aspect of delivery has been looked at to ensure maximum possibility of engagement. Consistent staff selection is used for delivery to build trust and support those who find change difficult. Joint informed working alongside consultant Occupational Therapists takes place, speech and language therapy is on offer. Hands on activity-based sessions look at promoting relapse prevention skills and raising harm reduction knowledge, respecting people with different learning styles and abilities.

Voices and Visions is another Phoenix intervention which takes place weekly to support clients with mental health challenges, in particular psychotic symptoms where auditory hallucinations are prevalent.

We don’t forget those with physical health issues, who can’t be supported in the main population. A monthly inpatients group is delivered on the Hospital wing. 

All these different interventions run alongside the mainstream population service which has to react to the ever-changing day to day challenges of a remand prison. All those engaged in the service are linked in with community support as part of their throughcare options. 

We also offer a Through The Gate (TTG) service which will support clients after release to assist in attending appointments and supporting those who find the adjustment to life outside the prison problematic and anxiety provoking. 

Last but by no means least is the support offered to clients’ families by our specialist Family Support Worker, along with the TTG staff they form our Community Engagement Team to ensure the clients have the option of support from day 1 in custody through to reintegration into the community.

Despite all the challenges presented, the Phoenix Futures team pride themselves on being able to instil hope, and support the courage it takes to make the changes necessary to successfully reintegrate into society.

None of this work would be possible without huge amounts of networking and joint working between all the functions at the prison, and most of all reacting to client feedback to ensure the service remains relevant and effective to clients’ needs.