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  • Writer's pictureRachel Duncan

Rachel Duncan: Research Assistant on the Fathers Together study

Updated: Feb 7

I have recently started as a research assistant on the Fathers Together study, working with the Race Equality Foundation, UCL, and CNWL NHS Trust. The study aims to understand the needs and experiences of young fathers in prison, particularly those from black, Asian and minority ethic backgrounds. These findings will be used to co-produce a parenting programme to be facilitated in prison settings, supporting young fathers and their families. We hope to base this on the Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities (SFSC) parenting programme successfully delivered in local communities for over twenty years.

I previously worked at HM Inspectorate of Prisons as a research assistant, conducting surveys on the treatment and conditions in prisons across England and Wales. I spoke to prisoners each week who struggled to maintain family ties, distressed by the negative impact this had on them. At HMIP I completed a project on the impact of family contact and motherhood on the mental health of female prisoners. Results substantiated suggested policy changes, including increased use of community sentences to limit disruption on familial relationships and maintain their potential protective effects. I further explored my criminal justice interests in my MSc Clinical Forensic Psychology, investigating victim profile, victim awareness, and attitudes towards victim contact in male forensic inpatients. I’m interested in giving prisoners the opportunity to have their voices heard. Through this I hope to develop effective evidence-based approaches to rehabilitation and improve prisoner outcomes.

We are due to start data collection for the Fathers Together study in our first two prisons soon, as well as conducting visits to establish family services currently offered in other prisons. We have also started interviewing family members and staff from social care, health, or criminal justice agencies to provide important perspectives on the needs of young fathers in prison. Although, we are still looking for more volunteers. Interviews can take place remotely or in a convenient work-place environment and should last around an hour.

Moreover, we believe that researchers should work together with people with lived experience of being a young father in prison to best address their needs. This includes recently released young fathers or an older parent who was previously in prison as a young father. We therefore set up a public involvement group to advise on study plans and discuss progress. It provides an opportunity to build new skills; those involved have already influenced our prisoner interview questions and our research approach.

The group meets every four months and new members are very welcome. Meetings last around two and a half hours and those taking part will receive a £25 voucher for each meeting attended as a thank you. Refreshments, lunch, and reasonable travel expenses will also be covered.

To find out more about taking part you can email me at, access our website, or find us on Twitter @TogetherFathers

Blog originally appeared in the Race Equality Foundation newsletter (5 April 2023). See:



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