Brian had been made redundant and was having difficulty finding a job. He became depressed and started to use alcohol as a coping mechanism. As time went on, and the financial pressures mounted, he turned to crime to support his family.
After a series of minor offences he was arrested and sentenced to a short-term prison sentence.
When he went to prison, his wife Gemma didn’t know what to do. She felt isolated and alone, and she was worried about how their 3 children: John (age 8), Peter (5), and baby Eva (6 weeks) would cope without regular contact with their dad.
Due to his previous offences, Social Workers were concerned that the children may be at risk, and as a result Gemma was extremely worried about the family’s future housing situation.
Gemma was also concerned about Brian’s mental health and was worried that he wasn’t receiving the required support in prison. She felt that his change in behaviour was alcohol-related and that, without sufficient support after release, he may reoffend.
Gemma shared her fears with the prison’s Family Contact Officer, who told her to contact Families Outside, the only national organisation in Scotland that works solely to support families affected by imprisonment.
Gemma called the Families Outside Helpline, which was able to provide immediate assistance over the phone. Due to the complexity of Gemma’s case, they arranged an appointment with her local Families Outside Support Coordinator, who was able to provide direct 1:1 support.
The Regional Family Support Coordinator contacted Fife’s Housing in the prison Links Centre to ensure that, whatever the outcome from Social Work, Brian would have a place to stay when he was released from prison.
To address Gemma’s concerns about Brian’s rehabilitation, Families Outside contacted the Scottish Prison Service’s Throughcare Support Officers (TSO) in both Fife and Tayside. TSOs work with prisoners and their families to smooth the transition from custody back into the community.
To ensure the family had more contact with Brian, Families Outside helped Gemma apply to the Assisted Prison Visit Unit (APVU), which can contribute to the costs of the prison visits.
Families Outside also highlighted the Families and Children’s Visits, which are additional to statutory visiting entitlements and would provide an opportunity for Brian to bond with his 6-week old daughter.
The visits worked well for both baby Eva and dad, who were able to engage in normal activities including changing nappies and feeding.
Families Outside also encouraged Brain to make bedtime story CDs with Storybook Dads www.storybookdads.org.uk. This provided the children with indirect but valuable contact with their father, further reducing the distress caused by his absence.
To address Social Workers’ initial concerns for the children, Brian attended a ‘7 Habits of Successful Families’ course, which helps participants to re-engage with their children and to make their family relationships stronger. He also enrolled in Family Learning sessions within the prison. Family Learning encourages adults to support children’s learning within the family and helps them to understand their role in their children’s learning.
Thanks to the support from Families Outside, Brian and the family were making positive headway, and towards the end of his sentence, Gemma asked Families Outside about Home Detention Curfew (HDC) to see if he were eligible to serve the rest of his sentence on licence at home while wearing an electronic tag.
Families Outside provided Gemma with information and spoke with the prison’s HDC Coordinator to start the application process.
HDC was granted, and Brian was released back to his community.
Due to the ongoing involvement from Social Workers, and their concerns for the children, Brian and Gemma have approached an Independent Advocate who will provide advice and support at all child protection proceedings ensuring their voices are heard and that the best possible solution for the entire family is implemented.
Families Outside also referred the family to Home Start, an organisations that provides emotional support to parents as they learn to cope, improve their confidence, and build better lives for their children.