The Real Power of Peer Support
We’re a small team, and we can’t be everywhere so it’s great to see local support groups for family members affected by imprisonment! In 2013, members of our team were delighted to attend an open day on the west coast of Scotland for family members and the professionals who support them. The founding member of the group gave this moving speech:
“As a group we have all been affected by imprisonment in one way or another. Over the years, I have struggled with finding support; at the start of this year I went to a conference in Glasgow where I was quite surprised by the amount of agency support there is for those in the central belt. Then I met someone at my granddaughter’s nursery who was also affected by imprisonment; we got talking one day, opening up about the problems we have faced.
In May, we got together for our first meeting. This is a small town, and we all shared the same opinion that this made it all the more difficult, as people can be very judgemental, and you can feel very alone, vulnerable, and stigmatised. We realised that if we felt like that, there must be a lot of others feeling the same way. Since May, we have had weekly meetings for family members, designed our literature, had meetings with agencies, and attended training courses.
The aim of our group is to offer support to all those affected by imprisonment in this area – from those facing a custodial sentence, to those returning to the area after a sentence and also for those left behind when a loved one has received a custodial sentence. We have information about prison, and a lot of information from the organisation Families Outside.
We offer emotional support to family members and also signpost to agencies that can help further. We have learned a great deal from our meetings with agencies, and we need the expertise and support from professionals. We feel as a group we could bridge the gap between agencies and people, so that there will no longer be a ‘them and us’ attitude.
We feel we are a strong group as we have all experienced the different aspects of how hard it can be and wondering what kind of support we can get. We are purely a volunteer group and have chosen to remain voluntary for the foreseeable future. We are passionate about what we are doing and why we are doing it.”
If you are interested in starting a local support group, call the Families Outside Helpline. Life is easier if we’re in it together!