Families Outside take key issues facing families affected by imprisonment to the Scottish Parliament once again
At Families Outside, we continue to advocate for the rights of children and families affected by imprisonment, and we were delighted to deliver a parliamentary event on Tuesday 30th May 2023. The event was hosted by Rona Mackay MSP, with the support of many other MSPs, key partners and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs, Angela Constance.
Families Outside recently conducted research into the financial impact of imprisonment and release to family members, publishing the Paying the Price project report in March this year. The event aimed to highlight the findings of this research as well as key policy solutions suggested as part of the project. We wanted to have the opportunity to engage MSPs and key stakeholders in the research findings and recommendations, with a view to working together to find solutions that will improve outcomes for children and families affected by imprisonment across Scotland.
We were delighted to have a range of speakers and participants throughout the evening acknowledge the importance of the research findings and commit to doing what they can to support the recommendations.
The event was officially opened by Rona Mackay MSP, who welcomed the research and its practical recommendations, noting that she has seen, in her own constituency, people struggling to walk extra miles to a prison visit because of the cost of the bus that would take them closer to the prison.
Rona was followed by Angela Constance, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs, who acknowledged the importance of this research for families.
Professor Nancy Loucks, CEO at Families Outside, provided some information on the context for which the research was conducted, and reminded everyone that the findings were collected prior to the start of the cost-of-living crisis and rise in inflation. How much worse might they be now?
“…if people weren’t struggling financially before someone went to prison – which, for the most part, they were – they definitely will be afterwards.”
It was highlighted that of the 51 people who took part in the research, 50 of these were women. In fact, 85% of the people Families Outside supports via the Helpline and 90% of those receiving one-to-one support from us in their local areas are women. The impact of imprisonment is often a women’s issue. Although this is not always the case, women are most often the ones left behind to deal with the aftermath when someone goes to prison.
Guests also heard from family members and Dr Briege Nugent and Jodie Gorman, the researchers who worked on the project, as part of a panel discussion. The panel underlined the financial impacts of imprisonment and potential solutions as part of engaging statements and a Q&A discussion.
Powerful testimony from family members certainly helped to shine a light on the issues facing families. Families are often unseen, unheard, and unsupported. They asked to be better recognised, supported, and simply respected when their family member is going through the justice system.
“I would like more support and information for families.”
“I want to be treated with respect. Like a human being who has rights.”
“My main issue is the stigma attached to supporting someone in prison.”
We also heard from Scott McLellan, Head of Social Justice for the Scottish Prison Service, who acknowledged the ways in which the research helps prison staff better understand families’ experiences and how it can be taken forward in future to make positive change.
Toni Groundwater, Head of External Engagement for Families Outside, talked of the next steps of the project and welcomed future collaborations in the name of improving outcomes for families. Toni also highlighted key issues such as travel, costs of snacks at visits and the cost of sending items into prison, where simple, practical solutions could be adopted to make significant improvements for many families.
Every family is unique, and Toni called for everyone not to make assumptions about who families affected by imprisonment or what they might need, but to simply ask and involve them. It is vital to ensure that families are visible, in the design and delivery of our services and policies in Scotland.
“The research clearly demonstrates that imprisonment creates, sustains, and deepens poverty amongst children and families – we urge anyone that can do something to help to please, do it… and do it soon.”
Please read the report and key recommendations here and get in touch with us if you want to discuss anything further. We are keen to work together to improve things for many children and families across the country who are so often forgotten.
What we need now more than ever is action!