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Offender management and rehabilitation

Remand Life Skills: Impact report

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The remand population

The Life Skills course is a programme offered specifically to individuals who are on remand. Remand prisoners are individuals who have been charged with a serious crime but have not been formally convicted and are therefore awaiting trial or sentencing for the crime they have been charged with.

The remand population in the UK has risen in recent years, and it is increasingly common for individuals to be held on remand over the statutory custody limit of six months (or 182 days). According to Ministry of Justice figures, as of the 30th of June 2023, 15,523 individuals have been held in remand in the UK, 16 per cent more than the previous year; this is the highest level it has been in the last 50 years. 2,500 of these people have been held on remand for over six months, 2,000 have been held for over one year and at least 150 have been held for over five years. Around two thirds of the remand population (67 per cent) is awaiting trial, while the rest is awaiting sentencing. Additionally, the House of Commons Justice Committee underlined that remand prisoners are held in Category B prisons, which are more likely to be overcrowded and in worse conditions.

Individuals on remand experience increased feelings of uncertainty surrounding their trials and sentencing (e.g. when will their court date be? Will they be sentenced? etc.). Additionally, for many it is their first time in prison, and the confusion and shock of their new environment can seriously impact their mental wellbeing.

Sadly, whilst the remand population has risen, the support available to remand prisoners generally has not improved. In fact, despite facing similar challenges to the wider prison population (e.g. mental health struggles, addiction, etc.), there is very little support available in prison or upon release.

The lack of support for the remand population is also highlighted by self-inflicted death rates. HMPPS National Statistics shows that, in 2022, 35 per cent of all self-inflicted deaths were by prisoners on remand, despite the remand population only standing at 17 per cent of the total prison population. This data highlights once more the struggles of the remand population and the evident lack of support they experience in custody.

Considering the data presented above, there is an urgent and crucial need for greater, more tailored support for individuals held on remand and this was also highlighted by the House of Commons Justice Committee in 2023. In particular, the Chair of the Justice Committee, Sir Bob Neill, stated that, although custodial remand is important to protect the public and ensure that dangerous offenders are brought to trial, it is too often being used without considering the consequences this has for the individuals. In fact, any time spent in custody can lead to a loss of employment, accommodation and familial contact; this is extremely impactful, especially considering these subjects are yet to be convicted of their crimes. Despite this, remand prisoners are not given adequate support to mitigate these effects. There needs to be a significant improvement in the quality of support provided, to at least match the level of support provided to the rest of the prison population. It is particularly important for this support to also consider individuals who are found not guilty, as there is currently no support for them upon release.

Read the full report here


A number of recommendations for the future of the Life Skills course delivery have been made below.

  1. It would be very beneficial for individuals to be able to express their interest through the kiosk, and there may be a potential for remand representatives to aid us with the recruitment process.
  2. Having refresher sessions after course completion, to remind the participants of the course contents and maintain awareness on the topics discussed would be useful. In particular, some individuals stated their stress and anxiety levels were immediately better after the course, but after a long time it is hard to stay on top of their mental fitness and remember everything from the course. Therefore, follow-up sessions would be extremely beneficial.
  3. It would be useful to have peer mentors participate in the course, so that they are more aware of the sensitive topics discussed, and can provide more informed support to the inmates.
  4. Additional course content and topics should be considered. Some examples raised by participants include how to behave and communicate appropriately with women and how to manage finances and debt inside and outside of prison. In addition to this, and after consulting with the wider remand project, there are some areas which we feel would be beneficial to add into the course content moving forwards. This includes exploring relationships with those in positions of authority, with a particular focus on Prison Officers. This would help to improve relationships between remand prisoners and operational staff. Furthermore, we have discussed the potential of utilising the remand project to deliver sessions on a Friday morning to those who have completed the Life Skills course on the Thursday. These would be held in the Employment Hub and would provide additional practical support and information whilst the learners are still feeling motivated and focused.
  5. A more appropriate environment within which the can be delivered would be helpful. This could include using rooms which have been protected from the disruption that stems from noise on the wings, and which have been decorated so as to be welcoming to the participants. This would help to create a better learning environment, and would promote concentration and engagement.
  6. We hope to expand the project, to deliver the Life Skills course on a wider scale. We would like to see the course become a standardised practice, which is delivered to the remand population in different HMPPS establishments, to support a wider audience than just the cohort at HMP Wandsworth.


Based upon participant feedback and attendance rate, it is fair to conclude that the Life Skills course has been incredibly successful. Throughout the delivery of the Life Skills course, the content has been adapted to meet the needs of its participants, using their direct feedback to make ongoing adaptations and ensure the course and its contents are as relevant and impactful as possible. All individuals who had the opportunity to complete the course felt they had gained a lot of value from its structure and contents, as well as the general approach used by the facilitators. The main points that we received in feedback, as beneficial aspects of the course, are summarised below:

  • The Life Skills course was an opportunity for individuals to meet other prisoners that they might not have interacted with otherwise.
  • It is useful to interact with people from different age ranges and backgrounds as you can learn about those with different life experiences and different experiences of prison.
  • This allowed participants to recognise that one can never know an individuals’ story until you take the time to understand their background and experiences.
  • There is lots of value in sharing experiences and feelings, as this helps you to understand that you are not alone or the only one suffering.
  • It is really helpful to learn new coping mechanisms and strategies from one another. • Individuals enjoyed engaging in interesting conversations and debates, and discussing topics that they would not normally.
  • The course is a good opportunity to solidify goals and ambitions, both for the long- and short-term.
  • The course allowed individuals to recognise the value they have to offer in sharing and reflecting on their thoughts, opinions, and experiences.
  • The course allowed participants to reflect and gain awareness of who they are and the experiences that had shaped them.

The demand for this service is high and the remand cohort would benefit from the content being delivered. We have seen that this can create positive and prolonged impact on their ability to cope with the uncertainty of life on remand, as well as the development of skills which will not only help them cope in custody, but will also support them in their longer-term journey to a more positive pro-social lifestyle.

Throughout this course, many of the key reasons why being remanded in prison is particularly difficult have been raised and discussed with our learners. Whilst running sessions, the topic of uncertainty was spoken about a considerable amount.

  • Participants cited the uncertainty that comes from not knowing their sentencing date, combined with uncertainty about how long a sentence they will receive and where they will carry out their sentence. They explored how this is having a detrimental effect on their wellbeing.
  • Many mentioned the fact that they are awaiting sentencing without a set date to be a key contributor to their high levels of stress and anxiety.
  • Moreover, for many individuals on remand this is their first time in prison, and therefore the shock, confusion, and adjustment to an entirely new and complex environment can often take a toll on their mental wellbeing.

The reasons cited above have been suggested as a partial explanation for the increase in suicide rates amongst remand prisoners, particularly compared to their sentenced counterparts. This is further evidence demonstrating the need for a course targeting the remand population, as they are less likely to have access to other opportunities to learn, develop, and spend time in a group environment.

Participants stated that they do not feel as though they have access to the opportunities that they will when they are sentenced, and so sometimes feel as though they do not have the opportunity to utilise their time in a valuable way, or to work on personal development and progression. They stated that the Life Skills course gave them the opportunity to reflect, learn and acquire the tools needed to be able to cope with their situation and its uncertainties. Participants now feel more confident in their abilities to reflect on their experiences and communicate positive and negative feelings in a constructive way.

Overall, we can confirm that the Life Skills course has been extremely successful with its participants and it is a key learning experience that remand prisoners gain benefits from.