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Charitys prisoner and family support service receives Big Lottery funding

 Children and families affected by imprisonment will continue to receive vital support services through the Invisible Walls scheme at HMP Winchester, run by children’s charity Spurgeons, thanks to a £435,000 grant.

The funding, from the Big Lottery Fund, will ensure the scheme continues providing its existing service, as well as enabling scope to develop new initiatives to keep families together and reduce reoffending rates.  This includes one-to-one confidential mentoring for prisoners nearing release and monthly homework clubs for 30 fathers and their children to enable them to support and encourage schoolwork and have a positive attitude to education. Practical advice, information and support to 200 families visiting a loved one inside the prison will also be available.

Invisible Walls has been delivering essential support to prisoners and their families since 2011.  The newly funded Family Intervention Unit (FIU) aims to reach and improve outcomes for the most difficult to engage and isolated of fathers in prison and their families. The FIU will provide keyworkers to be a single point of contact for a prisoner, his family and all prison agencies and community-based services supporting them.

Ross Hendry, Spurgeons Chief Executive, said:  “Spurgeons’ Invisible Walls has made a difference to hundreds of children and families through its family support services.   As well as a visitors centre open every day, it provides invaluable parenting guidance for fathers in prison and help to resettle them back into their communities and family life on release.

“When a family member goes to prison, in many ways, the whole family also serves the sentence.  The Invisible walls team deliver 'Hidden Sentence' training to professionals and community partners to help them better understand and respond to the needs of families affected by imprisonment and to reduce the unnecessary stigma faced by families.  We are delighted that the importance of this work has been recognised once more by the Big Lottery who have generously awarded us further grant funding. We look forward to continuing our very positive working relationship with the HMP/YOI Winchester and all our local partners to ensure this work continues.”

A core element of the FIU involves empowering fathers in prison who have benefited from the supportive programme to reach out as Dads Reps to engage other fathers in custody. 

Invisible Walls continues to reduce the risk of reoffending in imprisoned fathers. Currently only 10.5% of fathers who use the service are known to have returned to prison within 12 months of their release compared to the national figure of 57%. Since 2013, 14,221 adults and 3,228 children have been supported through the Visitors Centre at Invisible Walls. 339 fathers have attended parenting courses and workshops.

About Spurgeons and our work within the criminal justice system

Spurgeons is one of the UK's leading children's charities, supporting children and families affected by social disadvantage.  In the last year, we delivered 80 services, reaching over 37,000 children and 64,000 parents or carers.  We work with: children, young people or families who are struggling to cope with their difficulties; and children and young people who carry emotional burdens and heavy responsibility, or who have been, or are at significant risk of, being harmed or exploited.

Our work includes supporting children, young people and their families to ensure that the cycle of generational offending is broken. The support we offer in this area includes:

               Specialist support for children experiencing the loss of a parent through imprisonment.

               Child-centred family visiting support service.

               Community support services for families of offenders.

               Family based intervention to prevent offending and reoffending.

  • The Big Lottery Fund is the largest funder of community activity in the UK. We put people in the lead to improve their lives and communities, often through small, local projects.
  • We are responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by National Lottery players for good causes. Every year we invest over £650 million and award around 12,000 grants across the UK for health, education, environment and charitable purposes.
  • Since June 2004 we have awarded over £8 billion to projects that change the lives of millions of people.

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