We will update this page as necessary.
Updated: 2nd September 2021.
The coronavirus pandemic first affected FOPP on 17th March 2020, when the directors decided, as a precaution, to postpone a planned tour of the prison scheduled for that week. A couple of days later, they decided to suspend all volunteering activity within the prison after 21st March until further notice. The following week the government announced the first national lockdown, so any decisions about our volunteers going into the prison were taken out of our hands. Our volunteers have not yet been able to return to their normal roles.
FOPP directors successfully applied to have their two paid employees (Tea Bar Assistant and Volunteer Coordinator) included on the furlough scheme. The Tea Bar has remained closed since the beginning of the pandemic, but after a while, as permitted under the furlough scheme, our Volunteer Coordinator (Jane) was able to resume work part time from home (and briefly from her office later in 2020). Jane has been busy dealing with new enquiries from potential volunteers, arranging for existing volunteers to have their security clearance updated, liaising with the various prison departments and keeping in regular contact with volunteers by email and Zoom to boost morale and keep us up to date with developments within the prison, especially those that might be of particular interest or concern. From August 2021, and with the end of the furlough scheme approaching, Jane once again started going back into her office in the prison. At the time of writing (2nd September), she is doing occasional sessions of about an hour and a half in the office; the rest of the time she continues to work from home.
The directors have continued to hold their regular bi-monthly management meetings, albeit over Zoom, rather than the usual face to face sessions. We are in close contact with the prison management to discuss our return to our normal activities within the prison. Our priority now is to conduct risk assessments for our staff and volunteers when they do return to the various parts of the prison, and to agree on appropriate safety protocols. Some of the risk assessments have been completed, others are ongoing. Regrettably, the prison regime has still not been able to move from stage 3 to stage 2, which means that FOPP volunteers are still unable to resume their activities.
We have tried to keep this website up to date, including a timeline of events as they have affected the prison, based on official announcements that have appeared on the Sodexo prison website. You can see those details on our Lockdown In Prison page.