Our response to Covid-19

This page aims to provide contact information for prisoners’ families at all Serco managed prisons. It will also be progressively updated to provide information on how we are managing Covid-19 including activities that help to safeguard prisoners’ health and wellbeing.

Notice to families

As you will be aware, the government has implemented a month-long period of national restrictions in England to slow the spread of coronavirus in the country.

Our response to coronavirus follows the guidelines and rules that have been set out in the National Framework which enables prisons to respond locally to community restrictions and localised outbreaks, while following public health guidelines.

As a result, we have, with immediate effect, put in place a temporarily pause to all social visits unless there are compassionate reasons which can be approved by the director locally.

Our plan, guided by Public Health England, is based at every stage on three core objectives:

  • Preservation of life
  • Maintain security, stability and safety
  • Providing sufficient capacity

The Framework has five stages which range from complete lockdown (stage five) to normal operating regimes (stage one). During the national restrictions, all Serco prisons operated by Serco in England will remain at stage Stage Three as their baseline, with further progression to stage two temporarily paused.

What safety measures will be in place?

  • Several new guidelines have been introduced by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Services (HMPPS) to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading in UK prisons. 
  • Adopted the use of fluid resistant surgical mask for staff, in line with national strategy for staff sets locally determined tasks where face masks should be worn.
  • In addition, implemented face coverings for prisoners which for locally determined tasks where face coverings are appropriate.
  • In accordance with HMPPS guidelines weekly routine testing for prisoner facing staff in English and testing for all new prisoners has been introduced, either because they have arrived from court or transferred from another prison.

How will prison regime be affected?

  • Our approach will be to run as much purposeful activity as we can in a COVID secure way. We will prioritise key work so we can continue to support vulnerable and high-risk prisoners.
  • We will need to temporarily pause social visits unless there are compassionate reasons which can be approved by the director locally.
  • Official visits will continue although remote access through telephone or digital should be used as a priority.
  • Access to exercise will be maintained as this is crucial to prisoner physical and mental wellbeing, but social distancing must always be maintained so no contact or team sports can be included.
  • Other activities such as corporate worship, library attendance or access to barbering/hairdressing will be temporarily suspended.
  • Education activities and workshops that have been reintroduced since March will continue to run can in a COVID secure way.

Social Visits in Prisons

As part of the gradual re-introducing of social visits in prisons, we have issued a guide on the requirements visitors must follow to help protect the safety of residents.

  1. Face coverings: All visitors aged 11 and over are required to wear face coverings on arrival at the prison site moving around the prison and leaving the visit and establishment unless requested to remove them for security checks. Prisoners are not currently required to wear face coverings.
  2. Visits will prioritise re-establishing face-to-face contact with close family members (or significant others) comprising the following grouping combinations only:

Visitor Guidance for prisons

Please note: Significant Others might include partners, carers or an individual on whom the person in prison relies on for emotional support.

Visits will not therefore be allowed from:

  • Any combinations of persons not from the same household;
  • Three adults;
  • Unaccompanied children;
  • People who are not closely related to the prisoner or identified as a significant other.
  1. Visits will be allowed to all other prisoners, including those who are shielding so long as social distancing measures are maintained at all times (closed visits may be considered if you have a serious condition)
  2. Visits booking: As part of the visits booking process, we will confirm the rules above are adhered to with your visitor. We will let you know shortly how we plan to book visits.
  3. Frequency of visits: Prisons will try and offer the opportunity for each prisoner to receive one visit per month initially at Level 3. We will offer more if we have spare capacity.
  4. Length of visits: Prisons are guided to provide 45 minutes per visit.
  5. Who can you visit?: Visits will not be allowed to:
  • Protective Isolation Prisoners - Protective isolation is used for the temporary isolation of symptomatic prisoners and those who have been in contact with a confirmed or suspected case. 
  • Reverse Cohorting Unit Prisoners - those new to custody, those returning from bedwatch, inter-prison transfers and ongoing trials who are required to spend 14 days in a unit to prevent the spread of infection from the community into the main population in custody.
  1. Social distancing during visits: Visitors must maintain 2m distance both between prisoners and other visit groups. It is not necessary for visitors that are from the same household to maintain 2 between themselves, but they must remain 2m away from the prisoner and other visit groups. Visitors must keep their face coverings on whilst being seated, leaving the visit or moving around the visit room for any other reason for the visit’s duration. 
  2. Physical Contact: No physical contact will be allowed on visits at Level 3 (including handshakes, handholding, hugs or kisses) in order to maintain social distancing and reduce the risks to prisoners, staff and other visitors.
  3. Adhering to mandatory safety instructions: As a condition of a visit, all visitors must observe social distancing and other visit rules throughout the visit including any specific instructions offered by staff.  Not doing so on the part of either the visitors or prisoners will result in a warning but repeated violations may result in the visit being ended on grounds of safety.
  4. Where one or more children are included on a visit, the accompanying adult(s) will be held responsible for the oversight of the children during the visit, including ensuring that they remain seated, observe social distancing and physical contact rules.  Whilst there is no age restrictions for children, visitors will be asked to think carefully about whether the child will be able to observe the social distancing rules. Not doing so will result in a warning and violations may result in the visit being ended early on the grounds of safety. Where two adults are in attendance with one child, if the child is unable to observe social distancing and physical contact rules then one of the adults may be asked to leave the visit early together with the child.
  5. Indoor Creche/Play Areas/Toys: Indoor creche and play areas will not be available on resumption of social visits at Stage 3. All children must remain seated.
  6. Refreshments: Refreshments will not be available in the visits halls at Stage 3.
  7. Property: No property may be brought or handed in by visitors on visits at regime Stage 3.

Prisoner Friends & Families Contact Methods:

Here is a list of alternative options on how prisoners can be contacted by friends & family. 

  1. Email a prisoner - You can send email messages to prisoners using email a prisoner: https://www.emailaprisoner.com/
  2. Phone - Prisoners are given 10-minutes of free phone credit each day on top of their prison phone credit, which they can use to call their friends and family.

Prisoner Enrichment Hub

A workout routine

In Cell Workout

We all know that exercising is good for your overall wellbeing. So in order to assist with keep fit LJ Flanders kindly allowed us to make paper copies of his In Cell Work Out so that anyone who wanted to have a structured work out plan could do so. In Cell uses body weight as a resistance training method, no equipment is required and the workout can be completed in a room. The programme is over ten weeks however it can be dipped into for certain specific areas. All of the workouts can be adapted to suit the individual’s needs or abilities. There are also relaxation and meditation sessions to help calm and focus the mind.

Pages of quizzes and puzzles

Puzzles, Sudoku, word searches, Quizzes and more

From improving memory and better problem-solving skills to improved mood and lowering stress levels. People love a puzzle, so we have been printing out puzzles of all levels and themes to help pass the time in a constructive way. There have been wing quizzes with prizes, everything from ‘Name that flag’ to music and general knowledge rounds. A fun way to test your knowledge and enhance it. In addition, colouring packs for mindfulness activity have been very popular, plenty of rainbows have made it on to walls and windows!  

A poem

Creative writing

With thanks to Rowan at Shakespeare UnBard who each week sent three packs in with different ability levels so there were no barriers for anyone wanting to join in. All the greats from Shakespeare were covered from Romeo & Juliet to A Midsummers Dream. The pack invited the reader to take part in reflective thinking, designing and alternative endings. Alongside this creative offering was Arabella at Kestrel Theatre Company who each week provided creative writing packs in the form of playwriting and drama resources from fun sketches to full length dramas. Lots to keep the creative vibe strong.

Quote from prisoner saying: Always takes the time to listen to me

Feedback from prisoners

Here is some of the feedback from those who took part in the in-cell enrichment activities:

“Thanks for keeping me busy”

“Thanks to the staff for their hard work, these activities have been essential to making our tie in lockdown as stress free as possible”

“For giving us the resources we need – thanks”

“Everyone is going the extra mile and I know it’s really as stressful for them too at the moment – thanks”

“All of them have worked hard to keep us safe – special thanks you for the ‘goodie bags’ (sweets and chocolate)”

“Staff putting their lives at risk every day – how can we say thank you in words”

“To the staff that have gone beyond their job description to take time to put together the activities for everyone – thank you.”

Contact details of our establishments:

HMP Ashfield

  • Main Switchboard Phoneline: 0117 303 8000
  • Address: Shortwood Road, Pucklechurch, Bristol, BS16 9QJ
  • Twitter: @HMPAshfield
  • Website


HMP Doncaster

  • Main Switchboard Phoneline: 01302 760870
  • Address: HMP & YOI Doncaster, Marshgate, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, DN5 8UX
  • Twitter: @HMPdoncaster
  • Website

HMP Dovegate

  • Main Switchboard Phoneline: 01283 829400
  • Address: HMP Dovegate, Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, ST14 8XR
  • Twitter: @HMPdovegate
  • Website

HMP Lowdham Grange

HMP Thameside

HMP Kilmarnock

  • Main Switchboard Phoneline: 01563 548 800
  • Address: H M Prison Kilmarnock, Mauchline Road, Kilmarnock, KA1 5AA
  • Website

Other useful links:

Websites with information and guidance for friends, families and significant others of those in prisons