Download our Code of Practice (PDF)

Introduction

BEST, Befriending and Support Team for Foreign Nationals in HMP Wandsworth is a voluntary organisation that visits foreign nationals held in HM Prison Wandsworth. We focus on this group because they are particularly vulnerable and often have to cope with serious difficulties and anxieties without support from friends, relatives or having anyone to talk to.

We visit everyone in this category who requests a BEST visit for as long as they want our visits to continue.

We liaise closely with other organisations working with foreign prisoners and detainees and, where suitable, refer cases to colleagues specialising in associated areas such as law, health care, housing etc., as required.

We enjoy good relations with colleagues working in the prison service and ask volunteers to ensure we keep these relations as close and cooperative as possible.

Mission Statement for 2017

Our main goals in 2017 are:

  1. to ensure all foreign nationals in HMP Wandsworth become aware of the existence of BEST and understand the service we provide
  2. to ensure all foreign nationals in HMP Wandsworth find it easy to contact us and, if they so wish, request a BEST visit
  3. to do all we can to help colleagues in the prison service simplify procedures for booking BEST prison visits
  4. to ensure everyone requesting a BEST visit gets confirmation we have received their request within 7 days of its being made
  5. to ensure our first visit is made within 28 days of the date of the request, and
  6. to become a registered charity

New members

We welcome new members and do all we can to support volunteers in everything they do on behalf of BEST. We cooperate closely with one another, prison staff and organisations we liaise with and regard this cooperation as vital for the effective performance of the service we provide.

This Code of Conduct is an introductory guide aimed at dealing with essentials. It is not an exhaustive reference. If at any time you require guidance on any matter not here covered, please contact the Volunteer Coordinator and we will ensure you receive the necessary guidance as soon as possible.

References and training

All volunteers are required to provide two character references when applying to join BEST. After confirmation of acceptance into BEST, volunteers undergo basic training led by AVID – http://www.aviddetention.org.uk. This comprises two sessions that usually take place on a weekday evening from 18:30 to 21:00.

On completion of training volunteers are eligible to start conducting BEST visits and usually assigned casework within 6 weeks.

Important Do’s and Don’ts

Do:

Ensure we have up-to-date contact details for you.

Always cooperate with prison staff.

Always comply with applicable regulations and procedures.

Take personal i/d (passport or driving licence with photo) when conducting visits.

When conducting visits offer to buy something from the food counter at the Visitors’ Room:  costs are typically in the region of £3 and can be reclaimed from BEST.

If you believe keeping information confidential may lead to serious harm to the person we are visiting or others you must inform a BEST officer as soon as possible. If you are in doubt err on the side of caution i.e. inform a BEST officer immediately. In such circumstances, remember to keep calm and be as reassuring as possible, openly explaining to the person you are visiting that you will have to discuss the matter further with a BEST officer.

Immediately inform a BEST officer if you think it will be suitable to involve a lawyer, doctor, or other external professional whose services are required.

We encourage volunteers to attend BEST meetings: these are held in Balham Baptist Church on a Thursday evening once every two months.

Having been allocated casework do your best to ensure visits are conducted regularly i.e. approximately twice a month: regular visits build trust and are essential to the service we provide.

Share with us any ideas you may have for recruiting new volunteers, liaising better with other organisations, improving our services and generally increasing our capabilities.

Inform a BEST officer if you intend to stay in touch with someone you have been visiting after their release into the community: this applies to relatively few, but can be very important.

Don’ts:

Do not disclose your private address, email or telephone number directly to a prisoner or detainee: BEST contact details are available to everyone who needs them and for security reasons these must remain the only BEST contact details disclosed to prisoners and detainees.

Do not give money or make any other gift to a person being visited.

Do not give legal, medical or any other specialist advice of a type that should only be given by suitably qualified professionals: although discussion of such matters is vitally important, we refer ALL such cases to qualified professionals and specific advice relating to such matters must be left to them.

BEST Officers

Volunteer Coordinator       Isobel Smallacombe

Secretary                               Libby Spurrier

Treasurer                               Christine Julian Huxley

Chair                                       Geoff Smith