Every year more than 200,000 children experience the distress and heartache of losing someone they love because of imprisonment. Through no fault of their own, these children will often deal with shame, embarrassment, stigma and loneliness - and may live in households with parents or carers who themselves are struggling to cope. 

This has been an extremely difficult year for many, and prisoners' children and families have faced many months without any visits and little contact with their loved one in prison. In any given year, Christmas can be a particularly painful time for children with a parent in prison, but never more than this year.  

It will come as no surprise that we cannot run Operation Elf 2020 in the same way as we have done before, but that doesn't mean we're not doing anything to support the children of prisoners this Christmas. Instead of the toys we would usually ask for, this year we're asking you to buy a book token to the value of £10 that can be sent in a Christmas card to a prisoner's child. 

Last year, thanks to your generosity, Pact collected 3,000 toys and books - donated by churches, businesses and individuals - which were gifted to prisoners' children by their parents, at special Family Days run by Pact in the run-up to Christmas. This year, with your support, we want to help even more children feel loved and remembered with their own special Christmas gift. 

With your help, Pact is working to ensure that these children still get to experience the magic of Christmas. Operation Elf gives you the chance to show a little love and care for children with a parent in prison. Will you give the gift of Christmas to a prisoner's child this year?

How can I help?

Our idea is simple: we are asking you to buy a book token to the value of £10 and post it to our very own Santa's Grotto (OK, it's our Central Office, but shhh!). Our hard-working team of Christmas Elves will then arrange for the book token to be sent to a child in a Christmas card from their mother or father in prison. The child can then take the token to the shop and choose a book that they would like. 

With your help we can spread a little Christmas cheer to families and children who are separated at Christmas. 

That sounds great! Where can I buy a book token?

You can buy book tokens online from www.nationalbooktokens.com (using a credit/debit card or PayPal) or from all local bookshops. If you buy your book token online, you can even choose for it to be delivered straight to our Santa's Grotto!

Let us know you will be supporting Operation Elf!

If you are going to be supporting Operation Elf and donating a book token for a prisoner's child, let us know by filling in a very short form so we can thank you! You can also leave a Christmas message for a prisoner's child.

"I'm backing Operation Elf!"

Frank Cottrell-Boyce, award-winning children's author and screenwriter

Which design should I choose?

Please choose either a generic book token design or a Christmas-themed book token design. We sadly won't be able to use book tokens of other designs.


I'd like to donate more than £10. What can I do?

That's fantastic! We're so grateful for your support. If you would like to donate an amount greater than £10, please do so by purchasing multiple book tokens, each to the value of £10. Please do not purchase a book token for more than £10. For example, if you would like to donate £30, please buy three book tokens to the value of £10 each - and send all three to our Santa's Grotto.

I'd like to donate less than £10. What can I do?

We're grateful for every donation - thank you for your support. If you would like to donate an amount less than £10, please make a donation online or contact our Supporter Relations team on [email protected] who can talk you through alternative options.  

Where do I send my book token(s)?

If you buy your book token(s) online, you can choose to have them delivered straight to our very own Santa's Grotto. Please use the delivery address of our very own Santa's Grotto: 

Operation Elf


29 Peckham Road

London SE5 8UA

If you buy your book token(s) in person, please send them in an envelope to the above address. 

IMPORTANT: Please make sure that your book token(s) arrive with us before 23rd November 2020 to allow our Christmas Elves to distribute them to the prisons. 

Can I send book tokens via email?

Please only send us hard copy book tokens. We are not able to distribute e-book tokens or book tokens sent to us via email. 

Can I buy books or toys instead?

We kindly ask that you do not buy books or toys for a prisoner's child this year. We will be unable to send any books or toys to prisoners' children.

Do you still have questions?

Our Supporter Relations team are on hand to help you with anything you'd like to know about Operation Elf 2020. Get in touch with them via email on [email protected] or by calling 020 7735 9535.

Even with all the challenges and uncertainty that Covid-19 brings for each of us, we shall, nonetheless, soon start looking forward to the celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas. Pact’s annual Operation Christmas Elf will take place this year in a slightly different way and we need your support. Providing a simple gift for a prisoner to give to their child strengthens the bonds within families and makes the future brighter for us all. None of us can change the past, but we can help love make a difference. If you can, please help us - and thank you.

Archbishop John Wilson, Pact's Vice President