Befriending Service Evaluation Report 2021

Read the 2021 Evaluation Report here

I do not get much post here, but always spot her envelopes and feel excited to read her letters... It is the small things in prison that add up to the whole experience and having a BF has really helped me. Through the COVID lockdown, the letter frequency increased, and this was a real help as we had nothing to do in here. It was lovely to hear from BF throughout the lockdown knowing that we and the whole country were going through similar situations, improved the bond and rapport we had together


The quote above is a helpful demonstration of the impact our volunteers have on the people they
support, and also how volunteers stepped up to increase this level of support over the course of
the Covid-19 pandemic. Of course, what it doesn’t make clear is that although the ‘similar
situation’ of the initial lockdown provided the opportunity for a shared experience, people in
prison continued to live under heavy Covid restrictions for far longer than the rest of society. This
meant that a key part of our service – visiting people in prison – was not allowed to take place.
Visits gradually started being reintroduced from March 2021, but with prisons often adopting
different approaches this meant that some institutions did not admit visitors until considerably
later. As we started to prepare for visits to resume with restrictions lifting, we wanted to find out
about the impact these have on the people we serve, so we framed our 2021 evaluation questions
around this theme. The results are clear: visits are overwhelmingly popular, providing a boost to
morale and self-esteem, something tangible to look forward to, and a much-needed sense of

You will see from the report that the majority of the people we support are serving longer
sentences, for the most serious of crimes. These are often people who have been cut off by friends and family as a result, and face extreme isolation and loneliness. The support our volunteers provide helps people to maintain not just a social connection with another person, but also to rebuild self-esteem and develop a new sense of identity which is essential if they are to survive the realities of a long sentence and then be able to reintegrate back into normal society on release. As one respondent put it: ‘I am so grateful that you allowed me to be a ‘normal person’ not only a

Sadly, we anticipate the need for our service increasing in line with the MoJ’s projected rise in the
number of people being incarcerated over the next four years. We will therefore continue to grow
our service in 2022, seeking new volunteers to help us support more people in prison.

New Bridge would like to thank all the people who took the time to complete the questionnaire
and share their experiences. We would also like to thank the Governors and staff of the 74
establishments in which people we befriend are located. Without their assistance, our evaluation
would not be possible.

We are particularly thankful to Ailie Rennie, New Bridge Trustee and PhD candidate at the
University of Cambridge Institute of Criminology, who analysed the data and produced the report.
This report provides a wealth of data about the people we support and their views on our service,
which I hope you will find informative.

Dr Lucy Ball, CEO

April 2022

Read the 2021 Evaluation Report here

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