Care Day, the world’s biggest celebration of children and young people with care experience, happening on 15 February 2019, gives an opportunity to illustrate how care experienced people can feel different to others and may need extra support.

Nepacs, a north east charity which supports prisoners and their families, are delighted to announce that they have received funding from HM Prison and Probation Service to develop a new project at two north east prisons to support young men and women who have experienced being in care.

Children in care and care leavers account for less than 1% of the general population (DfE 2013), yet are vastly over-represented in the Criminal Justice System with over 25% of the adult prison population having previously been in care (Berman, G. and Dar, A. 2013).

The Nepacs’ project aims to develop support for young women at HMP&YOI Low Newton (in Durham) and young men at HMP Deerbolt (in Barnard Castle) who have had experience of being in care and may have lost social support networks in the community.

Nepacs was one of only 13 charitable organisations and social enterprises to receive funding through these grants. The aim of the HMPPS grant programme is to improve the lives of offenders by applying the expertise, skills and ideas of voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations.

The Prison Reform Trust: In Care, Out of Trouble 2016 publication states ‘young people leaving care are too often expected to reach independence at a young age and with insufficient information and practical and emotional support, increasing the risk of criminalisation.’  Furthermore a young person with experience of care and the criminal justice system shared that, ‘they often feel isolated and unsupported at critical moments, not least if they have to appear in court or spend time in custody.’

Helen Attewell, chief executive of Nepacs, said: “Many young people in prison have had appalling childhood experiences, and have not been able to rely on a supportive family to help them through tough times.  We are thrilled that we had been successful in receiving this grant to work with young men and women who have experienced being in care, to ensure that we can support them to build successful crime-free lives for the future..

“The principal aim of the project is to improve contact for care experienced residents of Deerbolt and Low Newton with their local authority personal advisors, families, carers  and significant others; and to improve their chances of having a successful resettlement following release from prison by supporting this group of residents to feel connected to their communities.”

Project workers will work with care experienced young people up to the age of 25 at Low Newton and Deerbolt who are from any part of the north east or beyond, providing one to one support work including listening support and mentoring and encouraging them to identify supportive significant others to come in and visit. They will also trial ‘Family Group Conferences’ to help create a support network for the young person in their home area; to support them whilst serving the sentence but also around the planned release.

Longer term the project will co-create, with care experienced residents, a group work programme/ resource pack around independent living, building resilience, emotional well-being and building positive relationships.

For more information on Nepacs please visit www.nepacs.co.uk or follow them on facebook or twitter @nepacsinfo