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New service launched for families and prisoners during early days in custody

ByTina Young

May 28, 2022 #charity

A north east charity has launched 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).

Nepacs, a long-standing charity in the north east of England which aims to support a positive future for prisoners and their families, has established the project 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.

The project got underway on 1 April, initially offering support to new residents arriving at the two prisons during their first week in custody and telephone support and information to families. Work is also taking place to establish a listening support helpline and recruit volunteers for the project.

The Nepacs manager of the project, Emma Price, said: “We are delighted to have been able to get up and running in the two prisons, despite COVID-19 restrictions in place and to adapt our service to enable support to be offered to prisoners and their families during this difficult time.  The project is focussed on supporting those people who find it particularly difficult when a loved one is sent to prison, including young people, those with experience of being in care, older people, speakers of other languages, and people with literacy issues, mental health issues, learning difficulties or disabilities. They will be offered one to one support to tackle issues around family contact, but also to help with issues that arise when a person first goes to prison, such as child care and caring responsibilities.”

Helen Attewell, chief executive of Nepacs said: “The first few days in prison can be the most difficult and distressing time for everyone involved. Our new project will work with Durham and Low Newton prisons to support families in the community to help maintain positive family ties with their loved one in prison and reduce the impact on children and other family members, which can be devastating at the point of separation and much later in life.

“By offering in depth support to prisoners at this time we can also mitigate against problems building up for the future and reduce the likelihood of self-harm and suicide attempts by those in prison. Evidence shows that those prisoners who maintain family ties are less likely to reoffend upon release so by enabling family contact to be maintained during those early days and beyond, it will ultimately assist with resettlement and reduce the chance of them reoffending.”

Prison visits are currently cancelled due to COVID-19 but once they are back up and running the team will 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.

They are however offering telephone support to those families to help alleviate some distress and confusion experienced by family members when a loved one is first sent into prison (either sentenced or on remand). This includes support and advice on how to keep in touch and practical information about visiting prison and where to go for support on issues that they may be facing.

The charity will need more volunteers to support families when they visit their loved one in prison once visits are reinstated, and anyone interested in volunteering can contact the Nepacs Volunteer Coordinator at volunteering@nepacs.co.uk For more information about the support available to families with a loved one in HMP Durham or Low Newton please visit the Nepacs website www.nepacs.co.uk