Prestigious award for HMP Norwich library service for ‘forgotten’ prisoners
Unique library-based group intervention helps ‘forgotten’ older prison population suffering from dementia and memory loss
Award presented by distinguished illustrator Chris Riddell during first UK Libraries Week
Second win in a row for Norfolk County Council library services
HMP Norwich library has won the prestigious Libraries Change Lives Award for innovation and impact in library services. The prize recognises the work of the library and its staff, in partnership with the Forget-Me-Nots charity, in delivering an intervention, Cognitive Stimulation Therapy, which is used to support older prisoners suffering with dementia and memory problems. These individuals are often ‘forgotten’ in terms of effective care because of living within the prison system.
It is the second year running that library services run by Norfolk County Council have won the award, after Norfolk’s public library and information service won in 2016 for its countywide ‘Healthy Libraries’ initiative.
Head of Norfolk County Council's Library Service, Jan Holden said:
“It is a real honour to receive this award. This project is a great example of partnership working in a demanding and challenging environment that delivers great outcomes.
“The success of this project has been down to the sterling efforts of library staff working alongside the brilliant and dedicated volunteers from the Norwich based charitable group Forget me Nots which is dedicated to supporting people with memory loss and dementia.”
Chairman of Norfolk County Council’s Communities Committee, Councillor Margaret Dewsbury, said:
“This is a unique project which shows the library service’s ambition to respond to the needs of hard to reach communities. This award will enable the service to continue and also help the expansion of the service to other prisons in the East of England.”
Illustrator, political cartoonist and triple Kate Greenaway Medal winner Chris Riddell announced the award in London on 12 October during the first ever Libraries Week. The service has received a £4,000 investment from CILIP, the library and information association.
John Vincent, Chair of Judges said:
“Congratulations to the library team at HMP Norwich. The award recognises their work to combat isolation and improve wellbeing for some of the most vulnerable members of their population, at a time when we have an increasingly aging population with complex health needs in prisons all over the UK. We’re very pleased to make this award during the very first UK Libraries Week which celebrates the impact of libraries of all kinds.”
The initiative particularly recognises the high level of health needs of this group in a custodial setting which is designed for younger, fitter prisoners. The NICE-recommended treatment is as effective as medication, and HMP Norwich and Norfolk Library Service are unique in delivering the treatment inside prison walls. The service is also open to younger prisoners struggling with depression or mental health issues. Staff working on the unit report a positive culture change on the wing since the introduction of the service, with more social mixing and a calmer atmosphere, both within and outside the group.
The Libraries Change Lives Award is judged by CILIP’s Community, Diversity and Equality Group (CDEG). Over twenty five years, the award has recognised a number of targeted initiatives around health and wellbeing and services designed to support local populations dealing with dementia, autism, visual impairment, domestic abuse and mental health issues. Health is one of the public library Universal Offers, five key areas of service in which public libraries in England are committed to quality provision and promotion.
Ongoing programmes recognised by the award include Bookstart, the Government-backed scheme first piloted by Birmingham Libraries which now reaches 3 million babies and their parents across the UK; and The City of Edinburgh’s HMP Edinburgh Library Partnership, an initiative that has transformed engagement among the prison population, tackling social exclusion and providing education and employment opportunities for a better transition to community life.