On Friday 18 May 2018 a new Welcome Centre opened its doors for the first time at HMP Kirklevington Grange prison near Yarm.

HMP Kirklevington Grange is a Category D men’s and young offenders open prison, located in the village of Kirklevington (near Yarm) which is primarily for those intending to settle on release in the North East of England.

The Welcome Centre is a successful partnership project with the youth homelessness charity Centrepoint, HMP Kirklevington Grange and Nepacs collaborating to create a unique facility to make family and friends feel safe and comfortable as they visit their loved ones. It will also provide a warm, dry, shelter from the elements for families who may travel many miles to visit a relative at the prison, and will provide lots of advice and information on a range of topics. 

The project got off the ground with thanks to funding received by Centrepoint from HMP Kirklevington Grange and the Tees and Wear Prisons Group.

The aim of the Welcome Centre project, as well as providing a welcome space for visitors, is to give men due for release an opportunity to put into practice training they had received around roles in the hospitality and service sectors – including reception and general customer service skills. They will also be trained to support family members around housing and homelessness issues.

The Welcome Centre will run according to an operations manual, co-written with prison staff and prisoners, with every aspect of the daily routine set out to support the development of important employability skills.

Centrepoint’s Director of People, Skills and Employability, Sally Orlopp, believes that the project will have a lasting legacy: “It has been really good working alongside experienced providers in a new sector for Centrepoint.  With almost 50 years’ experience in helping young people to find safe and secure accommodation as they progress towards a successful independent life we were excited to see how we could add value. We have had fantastic support from Angie and her team at the prison and we know that the Welcome Centre is going to be a fantastic asset for the men and the Nepacs volunteers working there.”

Nepacs volunteers will work alongside the men due for release and provide part of the welcome for families, and will be able to promote some of the opportunities which HMP Kirklevington Grange provides to strengthen family ties, such as family days, family learning and the ‘Heading Home’ programme to support release planning.

Helen Attewell, Chief Executive of Nepacs added: “I am delighted that Centrepoint and HMPPS have been able to create a new facility for families of prisoners visiting HMP Kirklevington Grange.  Although all these family members will probably have had experience of prison visits elsewhere, they still have support needs and Nepacs’ volunteers are looking forward to working in partnership to make sure that their visit is as pleasant and stress free as possible.”

Angie Petit, Governor of HMP Kirklevington Grange said: “Strengthening family ties and community support is one of my priorities at HMP Kirklevington Grange, as the men that we release tell us this helps them rehabilitate successfully into communities and to live law abiding lives. I am really pleased with the partnerships that we are developing in the prison and throughout the North East, as this can and does positively change lives.”

Prisons Minister Rory Stewart said: “The partnership between HMP Kirklevington Grange, Centrepoint and Nepacs will help offenders turn their lives around, and I am grateful to the staff for their efforts in opening the centre.

“We know that prisoners with strong family links are less likely to reoffend, and this centre will allow the increased contact that helps to forge such ties. Schemes like this can not only transform prisoners’ lives but also prevent future victims.

“We are very keen to study and learn from this example.”