Holloway Prison therapists who run free service for women offenders need new headquarters

Sabina (bottom left) and the rest of the team.

Sabina (bottom left) and the rest of the team. - Credit: Archant

A team of mental health professionals who ran a trailblazing therapy service in Holloway Prison and now support women after their release are in desperate need of a new base as demand soars.

The former Holloway Prison site. Picture: PA

The former Holloway Prison site. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Charity Holloway United Therapies (HUT) was founded by a small group of psychiatrists, psychotherapists and psychologists following the closure of the prison in 2016.

They had supported inmates for 25 years and gained a stellar reputation throughout the UK for their forensic psychotherapy.

Now, they work with local charities and use their spaces to offer a free therapy service to help rehabilitate ex-prisoners.

They are in talks with Peabody about having a space in the proposed women's building on the prison site when it is redeveloped, but that is some way off.

Victoria Gath, Sabina Amiga and Sophie Benedict, forensic psychotherapists directors of HUT.

Victoria Gath, Sabina Amiga and Sophie Benedict, forensic psychotherapists directors of HUT. - Credit: Archant

Founder Sabina Amiga, a psychotherapist, told the Gazette: "We are successful, but more successful than we can afford. The waiting list is big.

"There's only three main therapists and directors. We can't do any more, but there's so much more work to do. And the women can't get the help anywhere else.

"At the moment we are working alongside other organisations but we need our own space as soon as possible so we can take self referrals.

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"Across London there are empty houses. We only need two or three rooms. We're not looking for some kind of luxury, just somewhere for women to come and feel safe.

"The big dream, eventually, is to have a women's building with other organisations in there too. Somewhere women can come and learn about themselves."

As well as a new space, HUT needs to hire more therapists.

"We do all the work pro bono and need to hire more and it's a very specialised therapy we deliver," continued Sabina.

"They [the clients] need to understand why they are committing that particular offence or why they have that behaviour, whether it is stealing or sexual offences or violence."

The team work with Working Chance in Islington, a recruitment consultancy for women leaving the criminal justice system, Clean Break, a women's theatre company in Kentish Town that works with ex-prisoners, and Treasures rehab charity in Stratford.

Because of the lack of support in the area, they want to stay as close as possible to the prison site, where a temporary winter homeless shelter looks set to open.

Sabina added: "Our team in Holloway was unique because it was large and successful, and well known around the country. But there is very little support elsewhere.

"I can't work in prisons now because they are too far away, which is an indication of how difficult it is for family members to visit their daughters, sisters or mothers.

"People are losing touch because they are so far away. Holloway was the only prison for women in London and now they have to go to Surrey, which is expensive. It's £10 or £20, which might be money they don't have.

"Children can't see their mothers and it's absolutely vital to keep that contact.

"When they lose touch as children and are taken into care it is often irreparable and that has a huge cost to society.

"There is a high percentage of children who have a parent in prison that end up in prison themselves and it's much worse if it's the mother as they are usually the main care giver. There's also a very high percentage of those children taken into care.

"It costs £150,000 a year to put kids into residential care, even it's foster care it's still very high. Plus the cost of the woman being in prison, which is another £40,000."

To get in touch with HUT visit hollowayunitedtherapies.org.uk.