The Princess Royal met Samaritans volunteers and Prison Listeners at Swansea prison on Monday (15 Feb) as part of the 25th anniversary of the Listener scheme which was founded in the prison in 1991.
Unveiling a plaque in the prison’s visitor centre, Her Royal Highness said the scheme should be celebrated and praised the way it helped prisoners to develop vital skills and to support each other.
She met two Listeners who support their fellow prisoners at Swansea and were trained by volunteers from the local Samaritans branch. The Princess also met six volunteers from Swansea Samaritans branch.
One of the founders of the Listener scheme, Joyce Cole, a volunteer and former director of Samaritans’ branch in Swansea, also met the Princess during the visit.
“We are delighted that the Princess was able to meet Listeners and Samaritans volunteers in the 25th anniversary year of the Prison Listener scheme,” said Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland. “Prisoners in the UK and the Republic of Ireland are at between five and ten times greater risk of risk of suicide, and the scheme was set up to train them to provide support for each other.
“Samaritans volunteers in our branches are committed to making sure the Listener scheme is able to provide its life-saving work in prisons.”
HMP Swansea’s Acting Governing Governor, Mitch Albutt, said: “We were honoured to welcome the Princess Royal to help us celebrate 25 years of the Listener Scheme. This was developed at Swansea Prison and has undoubtedly saved lives, which has proved so successful, that it now operates in most establishments. It was also ground breaking that for the first time, the men were trained as peer supporters.”
Samaritans Prison Listener scheme operates in nearly all prisons throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland. It was set up in response to a rise in prison suicides and the death of a 15-year-old prisoner at Swansea.
The Listeners follow the same principles and practices as Samaritans volunteers and are supported by the 201 Samaritans branches across the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
Prisoners are between five and ten times more likely to die by suicide than the general population.
In 2014, 1,500 trained Listeners answered more than 86,000 requests for support from the prison population, which totalled just under 85,000 in 2015.
Picture caption: Vital support: Princess Anne meets Samaritans Swansea branch volunteers Cath, Joyce Cole, (also a volunteer and one of the founders of the Listener scheme in HMP Swansea), and William and Alex, Swansea Samaritans volunteers. Picture by Sue Hampshire, NOMS