Alice (not her real name) is serving a long-term sentence. Just before lockdown, she was transferred to a prison 150 miles from the rest of her family.

Unable to make the long journey on a regular basis, and latterly due to the suspension of visits, the family – two adults and two primary aged children – had planned to use the Action for Children Visitors’ Centre in Inverness to keep in contact. However, with the closure of the Visitors’ Centre, this option was no longer available.

As a close family, they were worried about not being able to keep in touch. Mum in particular had concerns about how her child in prison would cope having been transferred to a new location. She was also worried about an ongoing physical condition and poor mental health.

Although they were able to speak on the phone, the reassurance of seeing each other’s faces was lost, and with so many rumours flying around, and the worry of the ever-increasing cases of COVID-19 being reported across the country, the family grew more and more anxious.

Throughout this time, we maintained regular contact with them via phone, text, and email. We were able to check information with the prison and keep the family up to date with all new developments.

Knowing how much the family was struggling with missing their loved one, when we heard about the potential introduction of Video Visits, we checked in to see if the family had all they needed to access this service. They had home internet and, as this was during a period of home learning, mum advised the children had been supplied with iPads from their primary school. We contacted the school, who agreed that they were happy for the family to use these for the purpose of Video Visits. Unfortunately, this could only be a temporary measure, as the iPads had to be returned for the school holidays.

As the Video Visit Service was one the family would potentially be using for some time, we looked for a longer-term solution and ordered a tablet that the family could keep. When the tablet arrived, we collected it, downloaded appropriate software, and added the correct links to enable them to participate in Video Visits. We then provided set-up instructions, allowing the family to book their first video visit.

“I cannot thank everyone enough for the help I have received; being able to see and speak to (my child) has meant everything to me. (My younger children) have loved seeing and speaking to their sibling too. If this was to continue, it would be great, as I can’t get to visit much in person because of the distance. I bet I am not the only family that has found this a blessing at this time and in general. Thank you again – your help was most appreciated.“

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