The national helpline funded by HM Prison & Probation Service which supports thousands of family members of prisoners, people with convictions, and defendants will rebrand as the Prisoners’ Families Helpline, under a new agreement with national charity Pact (Prison Advice and Care Trust) who today take over its operation.

The helpline, which offers information, emotional support and signposting to callers, will now be operated by the charity, under contract to the Ministry of Justice.  Pact runs services for defendants, prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families, across the criminal justice system - from arrest to release.

The number of the service remains the same and can still be reached on 0808 808 2003. Though the domain name will change to www.prisonersfamilies.org, visitors will still be able to access the site via the old URL www.offendersfamilieshelpline.org. Emails to the [email protected] mailbox will still be picked up, though the new email address will be [email protected]  

As well as operating the Helpline service, Pact will also take over the running of the HMPPS funded website, which will include a new webform for visitors to submit their enquiries online and ‘call back’ request service. Online information will also soon be easily translatable into any language at the click of a button.

Thanks to HMPPS support, Pact has entered into a new partnership with Families Outside (Scotland), and NIACRO (Northern Ireland). Pact will assist callers from England and Wales, and work with Families Outside and NIACRO to ensure that prisoners’ families from all regions and nations of the UK can access services.

Commenting, Andy Keen-Downs CEO of Pact said:

We are delighted to be working in partnership with HMPPS, Families Outside and NIACRO, to continue to provide support to families whose loved ones are caught up in the justice system. We hope to effect a seamless transition with our colleagues at Family Lives who have managed the service until now.  The Helpline and website will continue to provide a free service for families of prisoners, and also for families whose family member is facing trial, serving a community sentence, or has been released.  

I am delighted that HMPPS has agreed to our proposal to change the name of the service. Many people in prison are on remand and some are released not having been convicted of any crime.  There is also a wealth of evidence that suggests labelling people in this way can have a profoundly negative effect. Research shows that when people are labelled, our expectations of them change, and so does our behaviour – and as a consequence – the label itself may become a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy. We are therefore pleased to be taking this service forward under the new name.

On behalf of HMPPS, Richard Booty, families lead said:

HMPPS is pleased to continue to fund this valuable service.  Calling the helpline can make an immediate and positive difference to a family member who may find themselves overwhelmed and often in shock following, what may well be their first encounter with the Criminal Justice System.

About Pact

Pact works in 65 prisons across England and Wales, runs extensive community support services and draws on a history of 120 years of working in the justice sector. Pact has also provided its own charitably-funded Helpline service[1] for five years, handling over 8,000 calls in the past year alone, and hundreds of complex cases[2]. Pact will continue to provide high level advocacy and case work support through its separate, charitably-funded service which can be reached on 0808 808 3444. Pact can be contacted on this number for professional referrals from schools, social services, police, probation/CRC’s, YOTs, sentencers and court staff, and from other public and voluntary sector professionals. This number will also continue to operate for people who are seeking longer-term support from Pact’s Befriending Service and from those who want to find out more about local Peer Support Groups in their area.

www.prisonadvice.org.uk

[1] At the End of the Line: Goldsmith; April 2017

[2] The Golden Thread: Wainwright, Harriott; Prison Reform Trust; July 2018