Featured job: Psychologists with Serco

We hear from Natalie Leach, Head of Custodial Psychological Services at Serco.

If Natalie Leech found a really good candidate how would she try to convince them to take a job in her organisation? ‘I’d ask them what they wanted to do in five years time, then discuss with them how we could help achieve that goal; we have so many clinical opportunities. I look for people who feel excited about psychology and who want to grow.’ 

Natalie is Head of Custodial Psychological Services at Serco, where there are qualified and trainee psychologists as well as facilitators who get an initial grounding in psychology before deciding which direction their career will take. ‘I love spotting potential in people, then helping them maximise it.’

Serco is an international company: one of its areas of activity covers justice and immigration. Among other things it operates six UK adult prisons – one in Scotland, five in England. ‘I used to work in public sector prisons and I didn’t find a difficult transition to a privately-owned service. Psychology is a very important service in Serco where we can be clinically innovative in what we do.’

Managing a number of prisons offering over a hundred psychologically-related roles offers flexibility in people development. ‘We help people move round the prisons to develop their own specialities. We offer work with different groups – young adults or the Therapeutic Community, for instance – and focusing on different issues such as the impact of learning difficulties / disabilities, mental health issues and trauma. Recently we’ve looked closely at experiences of prison: what does a rehabilitative culture look and feel like; what is best practice; how does it play out in different lengths of sentence. I’m hoping that we can start giving international experience in the future. We have only seconded internationally in a consultative capacity so far, but this could grow.’

As is shown by our interview in last month’s issue with Serco Forensic Psychologist, Yvette Bates, about her work on understanding autism in prisons, the company is committed to research. ‘We attend conferences, give papers, undertake training. Let’s face it, people don’t train for years and years just to sit at their desks and do the same thing over and over again.’

The service offers a wide network of support mechanisms ‘including supervision by more than one person.’

What does Natalie look for in recruits for the service?’ I suppose I’d expect qualities that would be common to most psychologists: caring for other people, passion and drive. At a recent exit interview an employee said, “I loved the fact that I felt very valued here and that made me spread the feeling to my team, colleagues and clients.” That sums it up.’

- Find out more on our Jobs In Psychology website.

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