National evaluation of prison social care


The prison sector is facing a major challenge in managing the increasing level of social care need due to the rising number of prisoners and more specifically, older prisoners. Some of the challenges they face reflect those in social care within the community. Our research demonstrates that despite a real enthusiasm and commitment from the workforce prisons are struggling to meet these challenges. Rather than being systematically addressed social care issues, as they relate to older people and those with disabilities, appear to be the province of committed individuals and not embedded in the mainstream.

Many prisoners with social care needs are not receiving the necessary level of support they require whilst in custody or on release. Equally, some are not receiving the same level of assessment and provision of care they would receive within the community.

The key factors for this appear to be:

  • A lack of explicit policy and guidance that supports effective commissioning resulting in confusion across the system as to who is responsible for what.
  • Poor level of engagement between prisons and local agencies.
  • A lack of funding directed towards the provision of social care in prisons.
  • Poor systems and procedures to support assessment and continuity of care. 
  • Variable adaptation of the physical infrastructure to accommodate those with physical disability. 
  • Inadequate training across the system to support effective assessment and service provision.

The Health Services Management Centre (HSMC) was commissioned by CSIP West Midlands to develop a strategic framework for adult social care in prisons with a focus on older prisoners.


Adult Social Care in Prisons: A Strategic Framework Report (pdf; opens in new window).

Date: 2006 - 2007
Researchers: Helen Parker, Margaret McArthur and Richard Poxton
Funder: CSIP West Midlands