There are many existing programs designed to support the financial stability of people in prison across Australia. Financial Counselling Australia and Thriving Communities Partnership (TCP) recognised the need to build a holistic understanding of the national corrections landscape to avoid duplication and build on existing learnings. In response, this project was born.
The Fostering Financial Stability for People in Prison project aims to understand the various challenges, risks and success factors for existing prison programs across Australia that are designed to support the financial stability of people in prison.
Phase 2 of the research also seeks to understand the experience of people in prison in addressing money matters, debts and financial stability and how this experience is influenced by the different stakeholders in the corrections ecosystem, identifying opportuities for stakeholders to better support people in prison.
This project has been enabled by a grant from the Financial Counselling Foundation and we thank them for their support.
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Phase 2 of The Fostering Financial Stability for People in Prison Project involved undertaking research with people with lived experience in the corrections system to understand the existing and desired end-to-end experience of people within and exiting the corrections system when attempting to manage their finances.
Research with Lived Experience
Within this phase of the project TCP worked with purpose driven research, design and technology company Portable, to interview people with lived experience in the corrections system. We would also like to acknowledge RMIT and the Inside Out Prison Exchange Program for their assistance in providing access to lived experience advocates.
We have joined 3 focus groups and conducted 6 interviews with people who are currently at Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, Tarrengower and Kareenga prisons, and people with past experience in the corrections system in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and New South Wales. These interviews and focus groups have helped to build an in-depth understanding of the issue from the perspective of people in prison, highlighting specific needs, feelings, thoughts and requirements that may be beneficial for fostering financial stability for people in prison.
TCP also conducted 8 deep dive interviews with 10 corrections staff from 6 prisons across Victoria and New South Wales to better understand the issue from their perspective, as the initial research highlighted the importance of their role in the corrections journey. Multiple conversations, workshops and group discussions have also been had with stakeholders from across the corrections ecosystem to further explore and validate the findings from the research.
Increasing awareness and access to the National Debt Helpline
TCP led a Virtual Scoping Workshop on Increasing Access to the National Debt Helpline (NDH) in Prisons alongside 16 participants from 11 organisations across 6 industries including corrections, legal, financial and community sectors, as well as people with lived experience. Access to the NDH was identified as a potential "quick win" in the pursuit of the project's overall guiding vision.
Since the beginning of these workshops, the NDH has been approved to be added to the CADL free-call list in NSW and the Project Team continues to monitor its impact to inform potential next steps and opportunities.
Sharing early insights and final project launch (Phase 3)
The Fostering Financial Stability for People in Prison Project is preparing for launch, sharing the complete research report alongside an interactive journey map that explores common end-to-end experiences of people in prison when attempting to manage their finances. The report details overarching findings derived from the lived experience research and offers a list of opportunities and recommendations for organisations across the ecosystem to improve their services to better support these humans.
Early insights have already been shared with a number of key stakeholders and industry peak bodies, helping to create awareness and understanding about the barriers and challenges people with history in corrections experience and offering recommendations for better practice in this space.
The research is due to launch in late 2022.
Phase One - Emerging insights and opportunities
Research insights were generated from 22 deep-dive interviews with financial counsellors, corrections staff, community sector and essential services sector representatives from across Australia. A focus group with Victorian financial counsellors working in prisons and a national cross-sector workshop further matured these findings. Key insights and emerging opportunities identified were:
- There are diverse cohorts of people in prison with specific needs in relation to financial stability
- There is a spectrum of debt-related needs
- Low priority of financial matters is a barrier to accessing support
- Targeted support for people on remand and short sentences is a current challenge and key opportunity
- Continuity of support improves outcomes, but there are many barriers to achieving this across the journey
- Barriers for essential service providers supporting customers in prison