Since the pandemic, Prisoners Abroad has - like many other organisations - made some changes to the way we operate day to day, and we are now working on a hybrid home/office rota. For our Resettlement Team, who deliver a face-to-face service, this has brought some challenges and new ways of working. Read on to find out more from them.

The pandemic

In March 2020, we were all avidly keeping an eye on the news about a new virus that we now know as Covid-19. Countries were reporting first cases at a fast rate and concern was growing that this could become a global pandemic. The rest is history, as many countries began declaring national health emergencies and national lockdowns.


By the 16th March 2020, Prisoners Abroad - like many other organisations - had no option but to close our office. The British Government had declared a national lockdown on the grounds of public safety and to avoid the NHS becoming overwhelmed with cases of Coronavirus. We had never anticipated the prospect of running our service and supporting people remotely.

We had previously supported our service users face-to-face in our office and this was how we assessed needs, made phone calls and benefit claims, and provided grants, clothes and other essential items. And importantly, face-to-face contact was key to supporting our returnees emotionally, allowing them to discuss concerns and offload. Speaking to someone in a supportive environment is valuable to someone who has spent time in prison, living in poor conditions and with little in the way of humanity during that time.

People face a big transition on arrival in the UK, often having left the country they had called home and family and friends. This all needs processing, and being able to sit with someone who is able to listen, support and understand makes a big difference.

We needed to quite quickly adapt to working from home. There were big technological challenges for us as an organisation, with everyone working with different equipment and varying quality of internet access. It was not possible to run our freephone helpline for some time, prior to calls being rerouted to our mobile phones. The first 6 months of lockdown were characterised by a number of logistical challenges and lots of head scratching as we developed workarounds to some of our standard processes.

How things have changed

Following the pandemic, we have made some changes to the resettlement area in the office, knocking down a wall dividing two rooms to make one larger room with a bit more air to reduce the risk of transmission of viruses. We have introduced an appointment system as we have fewer staff in the office at any given time, but we are thrilled to be able to see service users in person again at our office, albeit in smaller numbers.

Work Preparation Programme

In October 2022, our work coach, Lorraine, held an in-person three-week Work Preparation Programme for the first time in two and a half years. This will supplement the support Lorraine is giving over the phone, by email and in one-to-one support at our office.

These groups focus on the UK job market, CV writing, disclosure of offences and searching for employment. The groups also offer people a chance to share and learn from one another’s experiences, which we know people appreciate.

Resettlement Support Groups

During the pandemic, we ran a number of remote resettlement groups over Zoom video calls. These groups provide a focused, positive and supportive environment for returnees, who are facing some huge challenges. It was really important to ensure support in some form was available and we know they were really appreciated by those who attended.

We were pleased to resume face-to-face resettlement groups at our office again throughout 2022.