Family impact: prisoners’ families service

We support prisoners’ children and families, helping them to cope

When someone in the family goes to prison, we know it has a huge impact on the rest of the family – especially children, who often don’t fully understand where their family member has gone.

With a loved one in prison, children often face what we call ‘a hidden sentence’ – they shoulder the shame and guilt often felt when someone they love goes to prison and want to keep it to themselves.

This can lead the child to have behavioural and emotional difficulties, which is often misunderstood.

We support children with a parent in prison and children whose parents have been in prison and have recently been released to cope with their family member’s sentence.

Our support doesn’t just stop at the children – our whole family approach means we offer support to the child, their parent/carer and, where possible, the parent who has been in prison once they have been released.

We provide families with:

  • advice about what to tell children about imprisonment;
  • one-to-one support for children, where they can talk about their feelings;
  • group support for children with shared experiences to talk thing through and have some fun together;
  • one-to-one support for children as they consider whether they want to remain in contact with their imprisoned family member;
  • specialist support for children attending prison visits to see a parent (depending on prison location and funding);
  • peer group support for children where they can meet others who share their experience whilst having fun;
  • a support group for adults who have a loved one in prison; and
  • advocacy support.

Family Links Nurturing Programme

Parents and carers who use our service will also have access to the Family Links Nurturing Programme, which aims to help them become more nurturing in their relationships with children.

It supports them to understand and manage their feelings, building their skills around self-awareness, appropriate expectations, positive discipline and empathy.

HMP Altcourse Visitors’ Centre

We understand how stressful and emotional it can be to visit a loved one in prison. That’s why we don’t just support prisoners’ families at PSS HQ; we also support families as they go to prison visits, too.

We manage the Visitors’ Centre at HMP Altcourse, where we provide:

  • a warm, friendly welcome, to help put families at ease;
  • a family-oriented environment for visits to take place;
  • information sessions to demystify what happens in prison;
  • emotional support to families before and after their visit;
  • play activities for children, helping them get the most from their visit.

What are the benefits of referring someone to our Family Impact: Prisoners’ Families service?

  • This is a specialist service, delivered by highly-skilled professionals.
  • Tackling the stigma of parental imprisonment, we help children of prisoners to express themselves and leave behind the shame and guilt they so often feel.
  • Children cope better at school. Children who feel heard and have had support to cope with their emotions have fewer behavioural issues. And when they do, these are better understood and acknowledged (we can also talk to teachers about how best to approach conversations with children in their class who have a parent in prison).
  • Families get to spend time with others who are going through the same things, helping them to feel less isolated.
  • Children are provided with specialist support to come to terms with their family member’s sentence in their own way and in their own time.
  • We work with parents and carers to build on their emotional skills, supporting them to develop emotionally healthy relationships with the children in their care.

The Coleman family story

The Coleman* family – two children (Cara and Zoe), mum (Steph) and dad (Geoff) – was referred to our Family Impact: Prisoners’ Children service for support when Geoff went to prison.

Cara and Zoe came along to our children’s groups, where they could be around other children who were in the same boat and get peer support. Zoe, the eldest child, and Cara, the youngest, both witnessed domestic violence at home between their mum and dad.

We assessed Zoe’s needs and supported her to access further help from CAHMS. After some one-to-one support from our team, Cara was referred to another of our services, Seedlings, which supports children at school with their mental health and wellbeing.

Zoe wanted to get in touch with her dad. We supported her and the rest of the family with contacting Geoff, and we were able to agree phone contact with him.

Steph engaged in the Family Links Nurturing Programme, group sessions and one-to-ones . This increased her confidence, self-awareness and future aspirations. As a result, she gained further qualifications and growing from strength to strength. Steph shared what a brilliant service it has been for her and the family, including how family relationships have improved and how they understand each other more.

Both children are now doing really well at home and in school.

*Names in this story have all been changed for confidentiality

How to refer into Family Impact 

Professionals can refer using our referral form. For more information, please contact Rachel McCluskey: rachel.mccluskey@pss.org.uk