Support & Information Helpline

A key resource that we offer to families affected by imprisonment

Since Families Outside started supporting families affected by imprisonment back in 1991, the first service we provided was our Support and Information Helpline. From that beginning we have moved in to direct family support and the management of a visitors’ centre at Addiewell, but the Helpline remains in place, still going strong and a much valued resource to families and the professionals who work with them.

Calls to the Helpline can be very complex in nature, with the majority covering more than two issues. The Helpline is also often a first point of contact for families and offers a unique opportunity for families to express their thoughts, feelings, and needs and to seek help on their own terms without fear of stigma or shame. Our staff have to address a numerous variety of different issues and so far this year they have dealt with more than 4,100 issues that callers have raised.

We felt it was fitting that we recognise the value of this service by providing you with a poignant case study of the important work our Helpline staff carry out:

An elderly lady called the Helpline, as she was having difficulty travelling a substantial distance to visit her brother in prison. She and her husband were the prisoner’s sole visitors and had previously been driven by a church volunteer once a month. The Helpline staff reviewed the caller’s finances and suggested she put in a claim for Pension Credit that would provide her with an additional income and would allow her to claim travel expenses on the Assisted Prison Visits Scheme. The Helpline was delighted to hear that the lady was successfully awarded Pension Credit and is now able to visit her brother on a fortnightly basis now that she is claiming help with travel costs. Families Outside also received a letter from the caller’s relative with words of thanks:

“I can’t thank you enough for helping my sister get to visit me. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would have survived this sentence.”


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