Visitors’ Centre Coordination
Seems like such a long time ago, but we now have our National Prison Visitors’ Centre Coordinator in post. Laura van der Hoeven joined the Families Outside team in April.
There are significant benefits to the prisoner, the prisoner’s family, the prison and to wider society if prisoners can maintain positive family ties while serving their sentence. However, visiting prison can place significant stress on families. Three-quarters of prisoners’ families are accessing no support, and nearly half of prisoners lose contact with their families while they are inside.
Providing a Visitors’ Centre service is a tangible way in which prisons can support the families of those in their custody, and the Scottish Government is providing £1.8 million over the next three years for these services.
Laura is already in contact with several prisons that do not yet provide a Visitors’ Centre to develop proposals for new services from the next financial year. She is also working with the existing providers and the Scottish Government to develop national standards for Visitors’ Centre services. Watch this space for more information on these as they are developed.
In June, the National Prison Visitors Centre Steering Group hosted the “Supporting Prisoners’ Families” conference, offering existing providers and prisons seeking to set up new services an opportunity to share knowledge and ideas about how Visitors’ Centres can make a positive difference to families’ lives within the new funding and governance arrangements.
Since the conference, many prisons are already taking steps to improve their support offered – many have beaten a path to Laura’s door to open discussions about how they could design a funding proposal for a new service, and one prison has already established a “welcome desk” to provide basic advice and information in advance of hopefully bringing in a full Visitors’ Centre service in the next financial year.
One form of support every family can access right now is of course the Families Outside’s freephone Support & Information Helpline.