January 3, 2021

Five-Minute Intervention (FMI) Goes Down-Under!

Sarah Daniels
Project Lead, Safety Group

In our latest guest blog, Sarah Daniels Project lead in HMPPS Safety Group shares the importance of the Five-Minute Intervention (FMI) in our prisons and an exciting partnership with correctional services in Australia.

What is Five Minute Intervention?

Five-Minute intervention (FMI) is an established training package for HMPPS staff. It builds on interpersonal skills and promotes meaningful conversations with those in our care. All staff have the skills to make every conversation matter. FMI makes us aware of how to best use these skills. Even a brief interaction can make a very big difference.

FMI is a cultural change. It’s neither an overnight quick-fix nor a magic wand. Using FMI to support interactions can build confidence and enable progress towards rehabilitation. FMI contributes to the wider work staff do in prisons which helps:

  • People in prison to feel safe enough to engage with rehabilitation
  • And to have constructive relationships with staff and with others
  • Reducing the potential for prison to have a negative influence by helping staff challenge anti-social and offence-supportive cultures

‘Five Minute Intervention’ does what it says -it isn’t designed as a programme or course but a means of making the often-brief everyday interactions between staff and people in prison more purposeful. FMI encourages conversations to improve behaviour and relationships in prisons as well as focussing on success after release. Emphasis is put on staff asking questions, encouraging individuals to think and resolve issues for themselves and encourage empowerment. FMI is not about having more conversations; it is about having those conversations in a more effective way. FMI helps staff turn their everyday conversations with those in their care into opportunities for change.

We should use FMI in all our interactions. It may be saying “good morning” to someone as they come onto a landing, asking how their visit was, encouraging individuals whilst escorting them to work and importantly during Key Work sessions. Part of using FMI skills is about identifying the best time to use them– using emotional intelligence to know when someone will be more receptive and which skills suit the situation. It also means knowing when to back off and give people space and return to the situation later.


Progressing from a project at HMP & YOI Portland commencing in 2013, an initial pilot was extended to a further 10 prisons then rolled out nationally across the prison estate in 2016.  FMI now underpins Key Work training for officers as well as supporting the introduction of Physical Safety initiatives such as Body Worn Video Cameras.  It is therefore included as part of the initial curriculum when new officers are being trained.  Staff attend a two-day group training session to encourage discussion and reflection. The aim is to provide staff with a range of skills to help turn their everyday conversations into opportunities for change by coaching and enabling people in prison to identify and resolve issues for themselves, commit to change and engage with rehabilitation.

Most staff already have a lot of great interpersonal skills and the training raises awareness of how these can be used to best effect and further developed. Providing staff with training and the right tools helps to create a protective and supportive environment for everyone who lives and works in our prisons. We know that one of our most effective tools in managing people safely are the interpersonal skills of our staff which is why new tools we introduce follow FMI and Keyworker rollout at establishments, recognising the enhanced relational skills these provide to our staff.

The experience of staff

Listening, building trust and confidence, giving people hope and rolling with resistance are just some of the FMI skills that staff can draw upon in these challenging times. One of the main things we have had to communicate effectively are the processes being put in place during the pandemic -this is where FMI and Procedural Justice go hand in hand. Our role to rehabilitate and keep people safe has continued and having effective and proactive conversations has never been more important.  HMP Risley for example have continued to run COVID-safe Key Work sessions and Officer John McCrea was commended for his good use of FMI skills during his conversations with individuals inside and outside of Key Work sessions. John noted simple, but effective use of FMI skills in his interactions, for example, he concluded a Key Work session by thanking the individual for their time. He also included things such as “while we walked over, we chatted about his release date next month” and “when he finished his call, I asked if everything was well and he told me about his family and friends.”

Staff have responded positively to the FMI training and the benefits of using it with special thanks to HMPPS Delivery Manager Kim Hocking for her hard work supporting the training and gathering many of the staff interviews:

"It saves time and reduces conflict." - Officer Nathan Jones, HMP & YOI Lincoln

"Many staff bought into FMI - we've always had a good reputation for building rapport with the people in prison and FMI really works. The training received good feedback; it provoked thought. The establishment have been delivering reduced levels of COVID-safe key work which our Governor, Mr Yates, recognises as still essential work, even during COVID." - Lee Hellings, Safer Custody Manager, HMP & YOI Lincoln.

FMI and beyond!

FMI is an evidence-based approach and since the publication of the evaluation we have received increasing interest from around the globe. Most recently New South Wales prisons in Australia have progressed to rolling out FMI to 7 prisons, contributing to one of the NSW Premier’s priorities to deliver a prison environment which enables rehabilitation. 10 Training Managers have been recruited and now delivered FMI training to over 1000 staff. Equipped with the training manuals supplied by the England and Wales prison service, the team spent two weeks learning the material, gathering resources, developing videos and scheduling training. Australian colleagues benefitted from the support of the HMPPS Delivery team during the roll out with manager Kim Hocking being particularly flexible joining WhatsApp groups at 11pm!  It was a very quick turnaround to bring a team of people together from various backgrounds within Correctional Service New South Wales (CSNSW) but the team very soon came to value each others’ diverse skill sets and how to best to use them.

Word of mouth from staff that have participated in the training has seen more people eager to attend. There have also been several occasions where sites have requested prioritisation for training to assist with culture change. Training has also been delivered to a team of senior executives at their request and the feedback was very positive. Members from the Corporate Research, Evaluation and Statistics branch also requested training to gain a better understanding of the programme. They participated on site with front line staff. Inclusive Leadership training has been refined and continues to be delivered to local leadership teams. This is a really positive reflection of just how relevant the skills are in a range of custodial settings.

We recognise that keeping FMI current is important and requires effort, which is why it has become an established part of our work to improve safety and we continue to update and improve our materials. The manual has had a full revamp, new posters produced and a really helpful infographic that gives quick prompts to each of the skills.

Further Reading

Effective prison officer – prisoner relationships

A summary of evidence relating to how the prison officer - prisoner relationship can support rehabilitation.

Analytical Summary 2017

Prisoners’ perceptions of care and rehabilitation from prison officers trained as Five Minute Interventionists

Like what you've read? Help spread the word!