Pact and Send Family Link (Send Play Project and Visitors' Centre Association) have agreed to come together as one charity from 1st October.

The decision to join forces was prompted by a recent competitive tendering of all prison-based family services, which resulted in Pact being awarded the contract for all women’s prisons, of which HMP Send, a prison near Woking in Surrey, is one.  The two charities explored a number of options for working collaboratively, but ultimately the Trustees of Send Family Link decided that the best way for the charity to fulfil its charitable mission was to transfer the services to Pact.

Send Family Link provides services and support for families visiting women in custody at the prison, with a particular focus on children with a mother in prison.  They are based outside the prison gates in the Visitors’ Centre, where staff and volunteers offer a warm welcome, information and emotional and practical support to people who are visiting a family member in custody. The charity provides play facilities for children and a tea bar service within the prison visits hall during normal social visits and, thanks to the support of Children in Need, runs 14 family days a year, most of which are specifically for children visiting their mothers.   

Pact works inside the prison, where their Family Engagement Manager provides one-to-one casework support to women prisoners on a range of family issues.  The two charities already work closely together, and so the merger will see staff and volunteers becoming a single team, which it is hoped will facilitate a more holistic service for women in prison, and their children & families, on both sides of the prison wall.

Colin Ryall, Chairman of Send Family Link, said:

My thanks to all the trustees, staff and volunteers for their support and I hope that Pact will continue to provide HMP Send with an excellent service in the future. I have been associated with Send Family Link for more than 10 years and some of my fellow trustees for much longer. Christine Andrews was involved in setting up the charity 20 years ago and I would particularly like to thank her for her vision of what could be achieved then and support over the whole period.

On behalf of Pact, Andy Keen-Downs, Pact CEO said:

Send Family Link has been a beacon of excellence and has provided caring, effective services for over two decades, which we will work hard to sustain in spite of a challenging reduction in statutory funding.  We are delighted to welcome a great team of staff and volunteers to Pact, where we hope they will be happy and have opportunities to develop and link up with like-minded colleagues in the South East and nationally within the women’s prisons.

He went on to thank the trustees of both charities, and expressed his hope that those who have supported Send Family Link will continue to feel that they can make a difference. 

The agreement between the two charities is to ensure that all funds raised and secured by Send Family Link will continue to benefit the mothers and their families at HMP Send, and a new restricted fund will be set up for this purpose.  Reductions in Government funds mean that we will rely on the goodwill of volunteers and donors more than ever, so that we can continue to deliver services to minimise the harm caused by imprisonment and separation to mothers and children.

People wishing to find out how they can volunteer for the service at HMP Send, or donate funds or items to support the work, can contact Jeni Spice on 01483 471090 or call Pact on 0207 735 9535.

Notes for Editors

Send Family Link is registered as Send Play Project and Visitors Centre Association, registered  charity no. 1058259.

Pact is registered as Pact (Prison Advice & Care Trust) registered charity no. 219278.

According to the Ministry of Justice, there are 3,947 women in prison in England, compared to 3,836 12 months ago. Women account for only around 5% of the prison population. Half (48%) of women are reconvicted of another offence within one year of leaving prison (which increases to 61% for women who have served sentences of less than 12 months).

Women in prison are typically an extremely vulnerable group. 36% report having attempted suicide. 53% report experiencing childhood abuse. Despite being only 5% of the prison population, women account for over 20% of cases for self-harm.

Keeping in touch with family can help reduce the risk of re-offending on release. It has also been shown that family support in custody can reduce the risk of self-harm, suicide and violence, and can improve emotional well-being and relationships between prisoners and prison staff.

It is reported that only 5% of children whose mother goes to prison remains in the family home. Children of prisoners are reported to have significantly higher indicators of disadvantage and social exclusion, including emotional trauma and mental health issues, educational disadvantage, homelessness and in some cases more risky behaviour/delinquency.

There are no statutory agencies dedicated to identifying or meeting the needs of children affected by parental imprisonment, with the work being championed and delivered by charities including Pact.  Pact provides services in 60+ prisons and provides a free independent & confidential helpline for prisoners’ families. (Mon-Friday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm on 0808 808 3444).

For further information contact Louise Potter at 0207 7359535 or email [email protected]

Websites

Send Family Link : http://www.sendfamilylink.org.uk/

Pact: http://www.prisonadvice.org.uk