North East charity Nepacs has launched a new project for young people impacted by having a parent in prison thanks to a grant of £37,142 from the Youth Endowment Fund.

With the funding, Nepacs has launched a new online programme of support to help vulnerable young people with a parent/relative in prison or serving a community sentence to access mentoring from a trained youth worker and peer support through virtual group activities. The service has been designed to support young people aged 8 to 17 years across the north east who are experiencing feelings of isolation, trauma and distress as a result of their parent or relative’s custodial or community sentence, and who have not been able to access regular support due to social distancing and stay-at-home measures.

It is estimated that 312,000 children in England and Wales experience the imprisonment of a parent every year which can negatively affect their mental wellbeing, relationships with their peers, educational attainment, behaviour, financial stability and increase the likelihood of misusing substances.

Aelred Robinson, Nepacs’ youth project coordinator, said: “When a child experiences the imprisonment of a parent or close family member, they become subject to their own ‘hidden sentence’ which brings feelings of isolation, shame, confusion and abandonment without someone who can readily provide answers or a listening ear. This experience can have a significant impact on mental wellbeing and behaviour and, increasingly, young people are vulnerable to bullying and victimisation if other children find out details of their family member being in prison through social media.

“Because there is no current statutory guidance to inform schools when a parent of a child is sent to prison, the traumatising event of imprisonment can often go unnoticed. The outreach work we hope to provide through our virtual support programme can also help to raise further awareness, reducing the stigma attached to imprisonment and encouraging more young people, their families and schools to work with Nepacs to receive individual support and guidance.”

The Youth Endowment Fund is an independent charitable trust set up by the Home Office. It funds, supports and evaluates projects in England and Wales which work to prevent children and young people from being drawn into violent crime.

Nepacs is one of 130 organisations to share part of a £6.5m grant pot from the Youth Endowment Fund to help at-risk young people impacted by COVID-19.

Amanda Lacey, chief executive of Nepacs added: “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been widespread, affecting the lives of every child and young person in the country. Due to COVID-19 and suspension of prison visits, children have not been able to see their parent in prison for a number of months, and therefore the associated anxieties are likely to compound an already difficult situation for them.

“We are delighted to have received this funding from the Youth Endowment Fund Covid-19 relief grant as it recognises that children with a parent in prison are adversely affected, are in need of tailored support and will give these young people a voice. We hope that the support we can offer will lead to increased resilience and a confidence to access appropriate support for the young people and in the longer term these young people will experience better mental health, a reduced likelihood of getting involved in substance misuse / anti-social behaviour, better attendance and engagement at school and a reduced likelihood of them going on to offend themselves in the future.”

Jon Yates, Executive Director at Youth Endowment Fund, said: “It has been too easy to forget vulnerable young people during this crisis. The pandemic has removed much of the critical support that many of them rely upon – from teachers to youth workers. This funding will help us find the best way to reach and support these young people when they most need it.”

More information on the Nepacs’ youth project can be found on the Nepacs website: www.nepacs.co.uk or email youth@nepacs.co.uk to access support.