Invisible Walls

Supporting families affected by imprisonment

Families affected by imprisonment

160,000 children each year have a parent in prison.

At Spurgeons, our aim is to improve the lives of those children and their families who are affected by a parent being in prison. Our prisoner and family support services across England allow children to visit their loved ones in a friendly environment and our mentoring and support programmes give young people the chance to reduce negative behaviours and build a better future.

The Issue

For a child, the trauma of being separated from a parent can be an emotional and confusing time, especially if that parent is in prison.

Visiting a prison is a distressing and traumatic event for an adult and even more so for a young child. Being faced with security checks and sniffer dogs before entering the visiting hall can be overwhelming and lead to a child being fearful of visiting their loved one.

At HMP Winchester two thirds of the 706 male inmates have children under the age of 18 years old. Many of these fathers struggle to connect with their children because of their absence when serving time inside. Maintaining a relationship with family is difficult and many become isolated and disengaged with family life because of this.

On release many men struggle to reintegrate into their family life and communities. Many need extra support to thrive in their own areas so they do not reoffend.

In 2015, 60% of fathers at HMP Winchester asked for support with family matters when they thought about what their lives would be like after they were released.

Supporting families to face emotional scars and help them to communicate through the process of prison and release is a huge need within prisons.

Currently some help is available but accessing support can be an overwhelming process. On average, there are nine organisations a person needs to interact with to get support. This can be extremely overwhelming and confusing to navigate.

While serving time in prison is a consequence for breaking the law, many fathers serve their time and struggle to reconnect with their children once released. This in turn can feel like an extended prison sentence as they struggle to rebuild broken family relationships with little help.

Taking a whole family approach from visiting to release is needed to help families rebuild their lives after a loved one is released from prison. Creating a positive visiting experience for children seeing their father in such a harsh environment is a challenge, but it's vital so that father and child can form a positive and healthy relationship.

The Solution

Fixing the issue of broken families because of imprisonment involves more than just one service. It's a collaboration of different services coming together to support a whole family on all sides. This is a difficult process that we know needs to be simplified.

Spurgeons has established the Invisible Walls service at HMP Winchester to open new doors of support for fathers and their families.

Invisible Walls operates seven days a week and provides a place of peace within a stressed environment. Our key workers provide a listening ear and signpost families to help they need. There is also space for children to play and relax before and after visiting their father.

Through organised play sessions and family days, fathers and children are given the chance to bond and form relationships within the prison, cultivating a more positive visiting experience for families.

Simplifying the process of accessing support by providing one key worker for each family provides a positive solution to help families during the transition of release.  This key worker also acts as the main point of contact for support services around the family, ensuring faster action as need arises. Partnering with organisations that deal with substance abuse, domestic violence, mental health services, children's services, probation services, counsellors and offender managers, to name just a few, allows us to provide joined up support that works for families.

In situations where families feel lost we help them to plan and implement their own action plans to move forward. Through peer support and training we equip fathers in prison to action their own pre-release planning to help them reintegrate into their families and build relationships successfully. By acknowledging the struggles of families trying to cope with a father in prison and allowing the whole family to have a voice, we offer tailored support that can make a lasting, positive difference.

Project Funding

The cost of supporting a family to rebuild their lives is £2,500.

Invisible Walls is part funded by the Big Lottery Fund Reaching Communities Grant. This support helps fathers reconnect with their children, while reducing reoffending rates.

 

father and son

 

 

 

 

On release many men struggle to reintegrate into their family life and communities. Many need extra support to thrive in their own areas so they do not reoffend.

 

 

 

 

The support I received from Invisible Walls has been a turning point in my life. -Adam

Testimonial

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

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