prison case studies

Here are three examples of how Peep-trained practitioners have used the Peep Learning Together Programme to support their work with fathers in prison.

The projects' broad aims have been to help families maintain their relationships during and after custody, by:

  • supporting families visiting the prison,
  • developing new and expectant dads’ skills and understanding about the importance of their role as a father,
  • supporting positive transitions back into family life for young children whose parent is due for release.

HM Prison Inverness: Peep Progression Pathway qualifications for fathers (and their partners) - working with Highland Peep, Highland Council and CALA

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Inverness Prison“I gained useful skills through the Peep programme that will help me day-to-day when I’ve been released from prison. It gave me a better understanding of parenting and what can help my child.”

Staff: Two Peep-trained practitioners, Gillian Forbes from Highland Council and Mairianne Nairn from Care & Learning Alliance (CALA); the project built on CALA’s existing Prison Service work with remand prisoners and their families, and on Highland Council’s Peep delivery in local communities over the past decade.

Project overview (from the practitioners):

‘The course consists of 13 weekly hour-long sessions with the families, followed by an additional 30 minutes for the fathers to work on their portfolios. Each course has been run with two or three dads (who are in custody), their baby or young child and their partner. The first course went really well, and the families were really appreciative. We’re now on to our third time of running it, at the request of the Prison Governor. We’ve seen all the dads grow in confidence and get really involved within the sessions. There were obviously challenges: the prison is fairly small but over-crowded, with many prisoners being either short-term or moving to another prison, and for some mums it was too far or difficult to bring their baby or child each week.

From the start, we were keen that the fathers would have the opportunity to gain an SCQF-credit-rated unit (level 3, 4 or 5), from the Peep Progression Pathway.  This is based on the parents’ own learning and reflections on an aspect of child development, linked to play and learning activities that they do with their child during the session, then record in a portfolio. The children can be any age from 0-5 years, so the courses have used the mixed-age ‘Early Child Development’ unit.  This includes Learning Together Programme topics such as Helping children feel good about themselves, Play and language, Sharing books with babies/young children, Maths in everyday routines and Food for life.

Completing the qualification unit also guarantees the fathers an interview at the local college when they leave, if they wish to do further training. The dads have all worked really hard on their credit-rated portfolios. For one dad it was his first recognised qualification, and this time one of the mums is completing a portfolio too. The dads have told us that it’s the highlight of their week – and we’ve found that it is for us too.’

Feedback on the Peep sessions:


  • “Peep’s had a massive impact on me and my family – without it I wouldn’t have had that opportunity to bond with my baby.”
  • “I’ve really enjoyed the course, it’s made me feel more confident in being a first time dad and I have discovered lots of activities me and my son can do together.”
  • “The Peep course has emphasised things, why we do activities and how it helps my child’s development. I didn’t realise the impact reading a story had on my child.”
  • “It’s helped me exist, I feel more like a father. Even getting to stand up with my daughter makes a huge difference, in a normal visit session we can’t get off our seats.”

“I feel that - although the circumstances in which we attend Peep aren’t the best - it has had such a great impact on us.  Initially I felt it was going to be condescending, but after attending the first session I soon realised the benefit of it.  I’ve seen how much it helps my partner interact with our son.  The activities and tasks that fathers often don’t take part in, like crafts and messy play, he has been able to experience. I’ve also learnt from it, the in‑depth details of children’s learning is really interesting. Most of all it has helped keep a bond between father and son, giving them both time to play, learn and interact, and I feel this will be very beneficial for when he comes home.”

Inverness Prison Governor, Stephen Coyle:
“It has given the fathers in our care the skills and confidence to shape play in a way which is fun yet maximises the benefits to their children, whilst strengthening the bonds in the wider family group. We are delighted this work will be ongoing.”

Prison Officer:
“This Peep project is about preventing future victims.”

Maree Todd, Scottish Minister for Children and Young People, visited one of the sessions in December 2018. She was very positive about the encouragement, praise, nurture and strong relationships that she saw, about the emotional literacy displayed in the fathers’ written portfolios, and about the likely lasting benefit for the families.

> Downloadable version of Peep in Inverness Prison case study

HM Prison Aberdeen, Craiginches: 'Dads inside and out' - working with Aberdeen Peep & Aberdeen City Council

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project structure:

  • Six sessions with fathers, followed by a seventh family session before release.
  • Focused discussion/ talk-time around children’s needs and parental responsibilities; routines, play and other aspects of child development; attachment, and creating portfolio diaries.
  • Activities that provide ideas for positive interactions between parent and child, as well as promoting learning, e.g. stories, songs, puppet making, messy play.
  • Family fun session to enable learning to be put into practice.

staff: a Peep practitioner and a Prison officer


  • Dads were reflecting and thinking more about both the impact on their children, and the role of their partner in caring for their children while they are absent.
  • A dad who had been in prison since his child was 1 year old (now 4) had said at the beginning that he didn’t know how to interact with his son. At the family session he was animatedly sharing his homemade book and puppet with his son.
  • Dads were reflecting on making longer term lifestyle changes to stop re-offending.

HM Prison Winchester: 'Time for You and Your Baby' - working with Spurgeons’ Invisible Walls Family Support Service, Hampshire

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project structure:

  • Seven sessions with fathers, followed by an eighth family session where children are invited into the prison for a joint playtime with their Dads, who can put their new skills into practice.
  • The Spurgeons team also work with the whole family, including introducing them to services within their own communities, especially children’s centres.

staff: Peep-trained Spurgeons practitioners, funded by The Big Lottery. Spurgeons Invisible Walls Family Support Service provide a number of interventions for prisoners and their families.

The fathers felt they had increased their understanding of many aspects of child development and how it related to them and their baby, including:

  • the importance of positive interactions with very young children and different ways of communicating with them
  • the importance of music, songs and rhymes, and sharing books, for their babies
  • different ways that babies explore the world, make choices and learn through their senses
  • how to make the most of prison-visiting time.

The fathers were asked if they would recommend this course to someone else?

  • "Yes, it's a really good course and really helpful to build better bonds. Loved the sock puppet."
  • "It’s a good relief to know how important my children are and how I can still have a part in their lives. Although small, it is still a part."
  • "Yes - get on the ‘Time for You and Your Baby’ course, you would love it!"

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