One of the UK’s largest grant-making charities, Benefact Trust, has awarded Pact funds to recruit and train a new cohort of specialist volunteers who will work with prisoners, people with convictions, and their families throughout the southeast of England to help them to make a fresh start.

Pact currently supports prisoners and their families in 15 prisons and in community settings throughout the South East. Volunteers play a vital role in allowing Pact to deliver its services, helping those in touch with the criminal justice system to rebuild and maintain positive family relationships.

The Ministry of Justice reports that those prisoners who receive visits from their families in custody are 39% less likely to re-offend than those who do not. Family ties also improve prisoners’ chances of securing employment and stable accommodation after release. Volunteers play a vital part in helping to maintain these all-important relationships through roles in Pact’s court support service, mentoring scheme, befriending service, national Prisoners’ Families Helpline, and in Visitors’ Centres in prisons.

The Benefact Trust’s support will enable Pact to employ a dedicated Volunteer Coordinator for the southeast to lead on this project, as part of the Trust’s commitment to tackling social issues and helping communities thrive. The role will work closely with the team behind Pact’s JustPeople programme, which encourages those with faith to put their values into action by supporting some of the most socially disadvantaged people in society: prisoners and their families.

Pact CEO Andy Keen-Downs said: “We are thrilled to have been awarded this funding from Benefact Trust.  As a charity that works at the intersection of criminal justice, child and family welfare, mental health, wellbeing provision, and health and social care, we share their vision for lasting change and growth for vulnerable communities. Through the recruitment and development of our volunteer cohort, we can continue to respond to the varied and challenging needs of those in touch with the criminal justice system and ensure our services in the southeast are equipped for the future.”

Chloe Ewen, Grants Officer for Benefact Trust, said:  “Pact gives prisoners the support they need to make a fresh start, and also supports the families who are left behind when their loved ones go to prison – something that can have a devastating and long-term impact on their own lives. We’re delighted to help fund this pioneering work which will create brighter futures for offenders and their families.”

Further information on Pact’s services and details on how to get involved with the charity’s work through fundraising or volunteering are available at www.prisonadvice.org.uk/volunteer