DofE stories

HMP Kennet

Robert Durgan is the Deputy Governor at HMP Kennet and was the driving force behind the introduction of DofE in the prison. Speaking about his motivation to offer DofE to young prisoners in HMP Kennet, Robert said, “After many years working in youth services, I’d seen how the DofE can absolutely transform those young people who have previously been labelled as difficult characters; after achieving their DofE Awards, they become more positive, confident individuals with the attitude of ‘I am not a write off, I am a strong person who can contribute to society’ and this is exactly why I wanted the DofE to be available to our prisoners at HMP Kennet.”

The first year saw four young men achieve their Bronze DofE Awards and it has steadily grown since. This year, the DofE prison staff, who all volunteer as DofE Leaders outside of their paid roles, aim to support at least 12 young people through their DofE programmes. Robert described how his dedicated team work closely with each participant to create a DofE programme tailored to them, “There is a perception that a prison setting limits a young person working towards their DofE Award; however, this isn’t the case and many of the structured activities already offered can count towards a section of their DofE programme, from fire marshalling and offering peer support for the Volunteering section, to weightlifting and running for the Physical section and vocational courses for the Skills section. We have five DofE Leaders that volunteer across the various functions of the prison and they work with individuals to identify activities that they are interested in and that will support them into their future beyond release.”

Since introducing the DofE, the HMP Kennet team has witnessed each participant’s transformational journey, which has resulted in increased confidence, positive attitudes and reduced the risk of reoffending, as Robert explained, “When offenders come to us, they are often very insular, untrusting, and insecure outside of their comfort zone, with very little friends but many associates. Whilst working towards their DofE Awards, I see all of this chipped away at until they come out the other side of their programmes as more rounded individuals who look forward to a realistic resettlement plan; they start to feel ready to reintegrate into society, believing they can function with friends, family and their communities. In short, a life that does not involve coming back to prison.”

The DofE’s positive impact at HMP Kennet is reflected in the success of the individuals after achieving their Awards; “At least four from the last two cohorts have already gained full-time, paid employment. Two of which were in custody when they secured their positions, one whilst on Home Detention Curfew and the fourth individual found employment following his release. One lad was successful at interview by placing significant emphasis on his DofE Award and the skills and experienced he had gained as a result of achieving his Award.”

Staff at HMP Kennet also feel the benefits of the DofE, as Robert concluded, “DofE provides us with the motivation and belief that we can make a difference to break the cycle of reoffending. Our work running the DofE has shown that we can influence and change offender direction into effective resettlement. Every volunteer gets a real sense of satisfaction from being involved and each cohort that we support through their programmes reaffirms our belief that DofE for young people does make a change for the better and helps to reduce the risk of reoffending.”

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