An initiative from the University of Stirling will improve the lives of those living with dementia by introducing Scotland’s first prison based assistance dog training programme.
Paws for Progress, which was the result of a postgraduate research project in Stirling, is working with the Scottish Prison Service to train assistant dogs to help people living with dementia.
Rebecca Leonardi, Development Manager and Founder of Paws for Progress, said:
“This inspiring project represents a true win-win-win situation. Students at HMP Castle Huntly are given opportunities to develop their education and skills whilst also helping others.
“This unleashes the potential of returning citizens to contribute positively to society, and strengthens links with local communities.”
The aims of the programme are to develop the employability skills of the participants, improve their well being and to enhance the welfare of dogs on a wider scale.
Dogs are trained to remind people to take their medication, wake someone up and get them dressed or undressed.
Paws for Progress is now a Community Interest Company which specialises in developing human animal interaction programmes in custodial settings. It has been successful in improving the outcomes for the young men and dogs involved. The service started at HMP and YOI, where young offenders train rescue dogs.
One student involved with the project claims:
“From start to finish, it’s been perfect for me. It’s been amazing, it’s given me a sense of direction for what I want to do when I get out. I’ve got a plan.
“My skills have definitely developed a lot more, especially patience. I’ve not got any patience at all; it just kinda clicked when I started doing this. I’m dealing with things a lot better.”
The university will continue to work in partnership with Paws for Progress to oversee the impact of the project as it develops.