YSS Families First
Launch of the YSS Families First service handbook - Familial Imprisonment: A helping hand for families affected by parental imprisonment.
In November 2020, YSS launched the Families First service in Worcestershire. Initially a two-year pilot project, the aim of Families First was to reduce the emotional turmoil and anguish experienced by families in Worcestershire affected by parental imprisonment. 27 months into the service, we are now proud to announce the release of Familial Imprisonment: A helping hand for families affected by parental imprisonment.
Since the service was launched, we have supported 43 families across Worcestershire, through the provision of whole family support in a community setting.
The families we work with come in all shapes and sizes and all have their own individual story to tell. Some children have not known a time when mum or dad were not on the revolving door of being in and out of prison. Those where mum is in prison are often living with kinship carers, some families are dealing with the shock and stigma that comes with sexual offences and for some families a parent going to prison comes as a relief, perhaps due to a history of domestic violence.
The support we have offered has been tailored to each family and for the parents it’s ranged from practical support such as debt management, sourcing funding, liaising with other agencies, advocating with schools, making referrals, providing support to manage anxiety, but often just to be there and provide a listening ear.
Along the way we have worked hard to position ourselves as a main point of contact within Worcestershire between schools, visitor centres, probation, victim services and housing, to name a view. With the aim of ensuring that all agencies are aware of the support that is required, and everyone knows what actions need to be put in place. We have advocated for families, but most importantly given families the confidence to then advocate for themselves moving forward.
Families have taught us that from the point of arrest they feel neglected. The trauma of the arrest occurs and then suddenly everyone is gone. They feel confused, afraid and unsure of the future. They often don’t understand the criminal justice system and feel that they are not provided with the support to navigate it. They are left to find the information for themselves.
There is a wealth of information online around the imprisonment of a loved one, but it is not all in one place and can be difficult to navigate both for families and professionals. In an ideal world, every family affected by the imprisonment of a loved one would have a family support worker assigned to them from the point of arrest to walk them through the various pinch points of the criminal justice journey (arrest, court, sentencing, prison, release). In reality, this is not possible, so as part of the Families First project we came up with the idea of a handbook, to provide a one stop guide for families from arrest to release. The result is Familial Imprisonment: A helping hand for families affected by parental imprisonment
The handbook was put together over a two-year period with the support of some fantastic YSS volunteers, using information garnered from numerous online websites, academic journals and our own experience working with these families. It covers subjects as varied as the stigma and challenges of having a parent in prison, financial support, understanding every stage of the criminal justice system, how to keep in contact, what to expect from release and a special section on sexual offences. We have provided a long list of organisations across the UK who provide relevant support, as well as links to resources available online and books that we have found useful.
The family support pack is aimed both at families affected by the imprisonment of a loved one, but also professionals who may encounter these families. It is intended to be shared widely and we would like it to be a living document, regularly adapted and improved as things change.
We welcome feedback from professionals who have used the handbook with families and would also like suggestions on topics we may have missed and how we can continue to improve upon the resource.
We are extremely proud of the Families First service and the support we have been able to provide to families since 2020. We hope that this handbook will provide a guiding hand for families, enabling them to feel empowered and able to navigate the criminal justice system effectively. While ensuring professionals feel informed and more readily able to offer support when required.