Press release

Helping women in prison maintain family links

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Women in custody will be given help to maintain vital ties with their families through the introduction of family engagement workers.

Women in custody will be given help to maintain vital ties with their families through the introduction of family engagement workers in all public sector women’s prisons, Justice minister Simon Hughes has announced.

Entering prison and being separated from their families and children, sometimes for the first time, can be difficult and have an impact on the wellbeing of many female offenders.

It is important that women are punished for the crimes they have committed, but giving them emotional and practical support to deal with the impact of their actions on their families can make a huge difference. This reduces the risk of self harm, helps to keep female prisoners safe and well, and can also be a key factor in helping them to turn their lives around and move away from committing further crimes in the future.

Simon Hughes visited Eastwood Park prison in Gloucestershire and saw first hand the important role a family engagement worker can play in supporting women and their families through custody.

Mr Hughes announced that the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) is working in conjunction with a collection of charities united in the ‘Prison Family Support Alliance’ to provide family engagement workers in all public sector women’s prisons, as well as some young offenders institutions.

Family engagement workers are now in place in all female public sector prisons to:

  • act as case-workers to support women or young adults in custody
  • co-ordinate support for family members in the community
  • provide training for prison staff and other agencies on engaging effectively with other members of prisoners’ families

Justice Minister Simon Hughes said:

Every public sector women’s prison will have specially trained family engagement workers who will help to maintain and improve links with the women’s families.

Many female offenders find it extremely difficult to cope with separation from their children and families while they are in custody.

Helping them to make practical arrangements, stay in touch and rebuild their family relationships is not only key to keeping women in prisons safe and healthy, it is also a vital factor in reducing their risk of reoffending upon release.

Andy Keen-Downs, the Chief Executive of Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT) said:

As a group of charities, we are really excited to be working together and with the MOJ and HM Prison Service in a spirit of partnership to establish and mainstream this much-needed service in women’s prisons and a number of young offender institutions. Our focus will be very much on supporting family relationships during the critically important early days of custody, and on reducing the risk of harm to people in prison and their children and family members outside. We are confident that as more and more evidence emerges about the positive outcomes of this approach, it will be extended to all prisons.

Notes to editors

  1. Family engagement workers have been based at the following women’s prisons since 22 September 2014: Styal, Holloway, Drake Hall, Low Newton, Eastwood Park, East Sutton Park, Foston Hall and Send. They will also be based in a number of young offenders institutions: Isis, Glen Parva, Hindley, Swinfen Hall.
  2. The Prison Family Support Alliance comprises the charities PACT, Partners of Prisoners’ Families Support Group, NEPACS and Jigsaw. The alliance was launched on 23 July 2013 and they have been working together to build a network of services to provide prisoners and their families with a consistent package of support.
  3. For more information contact the MoJ Press Office newsdesk on 020 3334 3536 and follow us @MoJPress on Twitter.