A new service to support families and prisoners during the early days in custody at HMP Durham (reception prison in Durham City) and HMP&YOI Low Newton (women’s prison) has received an additional funding boost to help offer support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nepacs, a long-standing charity in the north east of England, established the project on 1 April 2020 thanks to funding for three years from the National Lottery Reaching Communities fund and a legacy gift donated to Nepacs from the Newcastle and Northumberland Police Courts Mission Fund.
Now, thanks to additional 6 months funding from the Government Coronavirus Community Fund (distributed by National Lottery) the team are able to extend their offer of support during this difficult period caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Emma Price, Nepacs early days in custody coordinator, said: “Due to COVID-19 and the suspension of prison visits, children and families have not been able to see their parent or relative in prison for over 3 months, and the associated anxieties are likely to compound an already difficult situation for them.

“Our team are supporting men and women arriving at HMP Durham and HMP Low Newton during their first week in custody. This additional funding will enable us to offer support around alternative ways for families to keep in touch with their loved ones in prison whilst prison visits are cancelled, including the newly introduced video calls. It will also enable us to reach out to provide extra support to care leavers, men arriving at HMP Durham who need a clothing grant, and individuals with additional needs such as people from outside the UK.

“Once prison visits are back up and running the team will also offer support to families to enable them to visit their loved one in prison and gain help for their own issues to reduce the impact of imprisonment, especially for children.”

In September, the Nepacs team will be launching a North East helpline for prisoner’s families and friends, and are currently recruiting volunteers for this vital service. Volunteers will enable families to feel informed as they navigate their way through the criminal justice system, and will help people to stay connected in this challenging situation. Their first round of volunteer training will take place on 15 and 16 August. If you are friendly, non judgemental, patient and have excellent listening skills the charity would love to hear from you. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact the Nepacs volunteer coordinator at volunteering@nepacs.co.uk or call 0191 375 7278.

Phil Husband, governor of HMP Durham added: “Nepacs are a key stakeholder in assisting HMP Durham provide a safe and decent rehabilitative environment. The work that the Nepacs staff and volunteers do to support our residents and their families is very impressive and well received by all of those who live and work in the establishment.”

For more information about the support available to families with a loved one in HMP Durham or Low Newton, including video calls, please visit the Nepacs website www.nepacs.co.uk