A new service to support men and women in north east prisons to help strengthen their ties with their family and loved ones has been launched by north east charity, Nepacs.
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 ‘Parental Rights in Prison’ project thanks to a two year grant from Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS).
The new project will support prisoners’ family ties through providing accurate and timely information on their legal rights to child contact, advocacy and case work for imprisoned parents who wish to sustain their relationship with their children who are in the care of the local authority or with family or other loved ones. They will also help individuals come to terms with separation from children when this is deemed the best course of action by the courts.
The project will also produce training materials for professionals working in the criminal justice sector around parents and their rights in both public and private legal processes. This material will be coproduced with parents with lived experience.
Holly Claydon, parental rights in prison coordinator for Nepacs, said: “Prisoners currently have little information or understanding of their legal rights regarding child contact and adoption procedures. There may be an assumption by agencies involved with the families that prison is not an appropriate place for children to visit their parent and crucial decisions can be made without little or no attempt to contact the imprisoned parent.
“Our new project will be based at HMP&YOI Low Newton (women’s prison) and will work alongside Nepacs’ existing family support staff across the region, as well as with other key agencies and Ben Hoare Bell Solicitors to ensure that potentially life changing decisions about child contact are informed by accurate and considered legal advice.”
Amanda Lacey, chief executive of Nepacs said: “The legal implications surrounding child contact can be extremely difficult for many people to navigate. Often the parents we work with have had limited access to support especially when they are in prison which makes this even more difficult. The impact of separating children from their parents can be devastating not only at the point of separation but for many years for both the parent and the child/children. Through no fault of their own, the children become victims, in many ways, of their parent’s imprisonment. Through this project, we will work to help the women in Low Newton understand their rights and give them the support to become involved in decisions which affect them and their children. Ultimately, we aim to maintain family ties, and reduce the devastating impact separation has on families.
“Evidence also shows that those prisoners who maintain family ties are less likely to reoffend upon release so by enabling family contact to be maintained it will ultimately assist with resettlement of prisoners and reduce the chance of them reoffending.”
Nepacs are working partnership with HMP&YOI Low Newton Prison, Ben Hoare Bell Solicitors and Durham University, who will be evaluating the project.