CARAT stands for Counseling, Assessment, Referral, Advice and Throughcare. They exist as part of drug treatment programmes in prisons – they mediate between specialist care (such as drug rehabilitation programmes and external Drugs Intervention Teams) and drug abusers. They provide advice, guidance and help as well as acting as a referral organisation. They offer additional services such as one-to-one support and group work. They provide the basic information on issues surrounding drug misuse and advise on the ways in which offenders can help cut it out of their lives.
It is a well established and integral part of the HM Prison System, and operates in all adult and young offender prisons in England and Wales. They operate as an independent body and can refer offenders to other prison service departments. CARATs are comprised of two main bodies; specialist drug treatment service providers and dedicated prison staff. The providers may be from non-governmental organisations or from the statutory sector (i.e. from the health trusts). They deliver planned interventions tailored to specific cases and individuals’ circumstances.
CARAT workers are expected to form therapeutic relationships with drug misusers and build up the trust between them as a means of nurturing lasting behavioural differences. Where necessary, they are expected to carry out structured one-to-one sessions, which have a maximum time cap of six weeks (with optional additions). Alternatively, group sessions can take place, with the aim of identifying the issues related to the prisoner’s drug misuse. Successful candidates will reflect strong people-skills and an ability to empathise and mentor individuals. Release Planning refers to the stage between custody and release, and ensures that the misuser’s care is not being neglected during this intermediary stage. CARATs are the vital component in this procedure and provide key information to them such as harm reduction guidance and advice including overdose prevention.
They are responsible for the care and coordination of all prisoners with drugs/substance abuse problems. This includes dealing with the accessibility of information about the prisoner. Some aspects are relevant to other areas of prison care system, especially if he or she is being transferred, but other pieces of information are rightfully private when the prisoner is released. It is the responsibility of the team leader to ensure that confidentiality protocols are upheld within the prison to ensure the full effectiveness of the care programme and the general welfare and improvement of the prisoner. CARATs are the official sole carers of prisoners with substance abuse problems in prisons and they must regularly liaise with all of the prisoners under their care. They must treat all of their prisoners equally, regardless of any social, sexual, biological or racial diversity. All CARAT staff are expected to demonstrate the required drug and alcohol national occupation standards. Additionally, CARAT managers are expected to attend training and awareness sessions. These include acknowledgement of diversity, boundary issues, the dangers of injecting and other routes of drug use and HIV awareness.
Essential previous experience would be in a one-to-one or counseling role, and the position holder would be expected to have knowledge of, and uphold, health issues relating to substance misuse. Excellent verbal and written communication skills are also a must, as well as an enthusiasm for rehabilitation and strong people skills.
Nothing obligatory, but a good basic standard of education would be desirable (i.e. A-level standard).
Two years minimum in a one-to-one or counseling role or a closely related position.
Strong written and verbal communication skills, people skills, knowledge of modern health issues.