Children of prisoners - maintaining family ties

Useful contacts and practical resources

While this list is not exhaustive, it captures a range of useful resources for supporting children of prisoners.

Action for Prisoners’ Families (APF)

APF is a campaigning organisation working to raise the profile of children and families of prisoners. They manage the National Prisoners and Families Helpline, which is run with Ormiston Children and Families Trust and POPS (see below). APF offers confidential advice and support to families of prisoners, including how to keep in touch, how to navigate the prisons and systems and where to seek other support.

The helpline number is 0808 808 2003.

APF also have a wide range of publications, useful for training, awareness-raising and talking to children and families. These include a series of pamphlets about

They have also produced story books to help children come to terms with their experiences, namely ’Finding Dad‘ and ’Danny’s Mum’ and ’Tommy’s Dad‘.

‘Homeward bound’ is an excellent DVD and acts out the experiences, thoughts and fears of a family where the father is due for release from prison. It is a thought-provoking tool for training, as well as something that could be of use to children and families.

APF have also developed a national directory. This has up-to-date information about services all over the UK. It includes details of prisons, visitors’ centres, and other relevant services such as those offering support for substance misuse. Access to the directory and publications can be found through their website below.

Contact details

Unit 21, Carlson Court, 116 Putney Bridge Road London SW15 2NQ

Telephone: 020 8812 3600 Email: Website:

Barnardo’s Northern Ireland

As well as providing services to children across Northern Ireland, Barnardo’s has produced a series of excellent tools for working with children and families of prisoners, as well as materials for children and parents themselves.

Additionally, Barnardo’s run the Parenting Matters project in three of the prisons in the province, delivering parenting programmes and preparing the prisoner and their family for release.

Contact details

542–544 Upper Newtownards Road Belfast BT4 3HE Telephone: 028 9067 2366 Fax: 028 9067 2399 Website:

Department for Children, Schools and Families/Ministry of Justice ‘Children of offenders’ review.

This review is considering how to support children of prisoners to achieve better outcomes.

Link: ‘Children of offenders’ review

Children of Prisoners Europe (COPE)

Children of Prisoners Europe is a pan-European network which encourages innovative perspectives and practice to ensure that the rights of children of imprisoned parents are fully respected and that action is taken to secure their wellbeing and healthy development. The network is a membership-based organisation made up of non-governmental organisations and individuals across Europe and beyond, linked by a staff team based at its Paris headquarters. The network’s activities include: raising awareness among child-related agencies, prison services and policymakers; fostering cross-sectoral collaboration and promoting initiatives that take the needs of children of prisoners into account. 

Contact details 

4–6 rue Charles Floquet BP38 92122 Montrouge France
+33 (0)1 42 53 71 85

Every Child Matters

Every Child Matters: Change for Children is a new approach to the well-being of children and young people from birth to age 19. The Government's aim is for every child, whatever their background or their circumstances, to have the support they need to:


Families Outside

Families Outside is a Scottish charity which helps hundreds of families each year. They have developed a good partnership with the Scottish Prison Service and work closely with the family contact and development officers in each prison. Through research, training and partnership work, Families Outside aims to raise awareness of the needs of families affected by imprisonment so that they can get the information and support they need to cope.

Families Outside run the Scottish prisoners' families helpline. This is an independent service for families and friends affected by imprisonment, offering practical advice and emotional support. The helpline can be reached through a free phone number: 0500 839 383.   They have a number of useful publications, including the following factsheets:

Families Outside has also produced information for families at court, and about ‘through care’ (the support offered to a prisoner during their sentence).

Additionally, they have undertaken research such as ‘Teenagers with a parent in prison’ and ‘Prison without bars’: needs, support, and good practice for work with prisoners’ families’.

Contact details

Families Outside 19a Albany Street Edinburgh EH1 3QN

Telephone: 0131 557 9800 Helpline email: General email: Website:

Gloucestershire Local Education Authority

Gloucestershire Local Education Authority has produced a policy 'for the education of children with a parent or close relative in prison’. The aims of this policy are:

To view the policy in full go to:

HALOW (Birmingham)

Provides services to prisoners' families to help them overcome problems faced by having a family member in prison. The purpose of the charity is to help maintain good family ties. They provide a range of services in visitor centres at HMP Brimingham, Stafford, Brinsford YOI, and Featherstone.

Contact details

Halow (Birmingham) PO Box 7081 Birmingham B18 4AN

Telephone: 0121 551 9799

HMP Maghaberry, Northern Ireland

HMP Maghaberry has trained family support officers. These are prison officers with responsibility for family liaison and support, both within the prison and in linking families into agencies in the community. They are available to families by telephone and in person.

Contact details

HMP Maghaberry 17 Old Road Upper Ballinderry Lisburn, BT28 2PT

Telephone: 028 9261 6067 Website:

Kids VIP

Kids VIP provide training across the prison estate to prison staff about making prison visits as child-friendly as possible. This includes information about good practice, how to replicate it and guidance and support on setting up child-centred family visits. The aim of Kids VIP is to enable children maintain their relationships with an imprisoned parent. Training is available for:

Kids VIP have also produced a good practice guide ‘Children visiting prisons: sharing good practice’. This is a useful tool for anyone who has contact with prisons, or is supporting children and families to maintain family ties. ‘Kids visiting prison’ is a DVD highlighting the issues for children visiting prison. It shows the process children have to go through in terms of security and gaining access to the institution, as well the experience of a normal domestic visit and a child-centred visit. Again, this is an excellent training tool and would be of benefit to anyone who is supporting children visiting prisons.

Contact details

Kids VIP PO Box 51217 London SE11 4ZD


National Offender Management Service: children and families pathway

This states that children and families can play a significant role in supporting an offender to make and sustain changes which reduce re-offending. However, many offenders’ relationships are broken or fragmented as a result of their offending, leaving their families unsupported, and increasing the likelihood of inter-generational offending, mental health and financial problems.  

This pathway raises the issue of support for offenders' family relationships and is very much linked to the five outcomes in Every Child Matters. NOMS are funding the Families Do Matter project in the West Midlands.

Link: Children and families pathway

North Eastern Prison After Care Society (NEPACS)

NEPACS is a voluntary, independent, community-based charity that supports offenders, ex-offenders and their families. Volunteers work to provide visitors' centres and children’s play areas at prisons throughout the North East. NEPACS also organise special visits for children and families, run events and produce publications to raise awareness.

Contact details NEPACS 22 Old Elvet Durham City DH1 3HW

Telephone: 0191 384 3096 Email: Website:

Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NIACRO)

Family Links is a programme to help people cope with having a family member in prison. It is offered to the families of all prisoners in Northern Ireland and is funded by the Probation Board, the Youth Justice Agency, the NI Prison Service and the Nationwide Foundation. It is underpinned by the Resettlement Strategy Implementation Plan. The service offers both practical and emotional support.

The Family Links Service ensures that all families are offered independent advice and support within 48 hours of a person entering prison.  In partnership with probation services, each prisoner is asked to identify family members and children affected by their imprisonment on committal. If permission is given details are faxed to Family Links who aim to contact them by telephone on the same day, as well as sending an information pack specific to each prison. All families are offered immediate practical information over the telephone and if a family member (adult or child) requires further support they can access:

NIACRO has also produced extremely useful resources for children and families and professionals offering support:

Contact details

Amelia House 4 Amelia Street Belfast BT2 7GS Tel: 028 9032 0157 Fax: 087 0432 1415 Email: Website:

Ormiston (Ormiston Children and Families Trust)

Ormiston works across the majority of the prisons in the Eastern region. They have been working successfully in this field for many years and have expertise in many areas. They staff the visitor centres, run accredited parenting programmes and special visits in the prisons, work with children in the community and produce resources and information for families and those who work with them.

 Partnership with other organisations is highly valued by Ormiston. They offer a range of training and awareness-raising, including a programme for foster carers, social work students and schools. All of the following resources are available from Ormiston:

Ormiston have also produced research in the field:

Ormiston are also part of the consortium that operates the national Prisoners' Families Helpline (see APF).

Contact details

Ormiston 333 Felixstowe Road Ipswich IP3 9BU Telephone: 01473 724517 Fax: 01473 274255 Email: Website:

Partners of Prisoners and Families Support Group (POPS)

POPS provide a variety of services to support anyone who has a link with someone in prison, prisoners and other agencies. POPS aims to provide support to enable families to cope with the stress of arrest, imprisonment and release.

POPS currently run the following services:

For more information on these projects and for copies of publications, contact POPS on the details below.

Contact details

Valentine House 1079 Rochdale Road Blackley Manchester M9 8AJ Telephone: 0161 702 1000 Fax: 0161 702 1000 Email: Email POPS Website:

The Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT)

The Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT) is an independent charity that supports people affected by imprisonment. PACT work with children and families of prisoners, and with prisoners inside and on release. They provide family support workers and volunteers at several visitors’ centres. Situated outside the prison gates, they can offer information and support to family members.

Contact details

Suite C5 City Cloisters 196 Old Street London EC1V 9FR

Telephone: 020 7490 3139 Fax: 020 7490 0755 Email: Website:

Prisoners’ Families and Friends (PFF)

Prisoners’ Families and Friends Service is an independent voluntary agency which has been helping prisoners’ families for 40 years. The main aims of the service are to provide the families and friends of anyone sentenced to imprisonment or remanded in custody with:

PFF have produced several useful resources including pamphlets on:

Additionally, in partnership with Islington Primary Care Trust and Age Concern, PFF have produced

Contact details

Prisoners’ Families and Friends Service 20 Trinity Street London SE1 1DB

Telephone: 0808 808 3444 (freephone helpline for prisoners’ families) 020 7403 4091/9359 (admin.) Fax: 020 7403 9359 Email: Website:

Social Exclusion Task Force families review ‘Reaching out: think family’

This report, published in 2007, seeks to extend the benefits of the Every Child Matters approach to the whole family so that adults' and children's services work together to tackle the root causes of children's disadvantage that often lie in the difficulties of their parents. The report is about early intervention – breaking the cycle that is passed down the generations, by tackling the drivers in the wider family environment that contribute to poor outcomes for the children and for child poverty. It is also about never giving up on families and looking for every opportunity to support them. It specifically mentions the children of prisoners, stating that  parental imprisonment disrupts contact between parent and child and is strongly associated with poor outcomes.

Link: Social exclusion taskforce: Reaching out: think family

Storybook Dads

Award-winning Storybook Dads is an independent, registered charity. It is based at Dartmoor Prison and has been steadily expanding across the prison estate. They use digital technology to enable mothers and fathers to record stories for their children to listen to at home, with the aim of maintaining family ties and facilitating learning for prisoners and their children through the provision of story CDs.

Contact details

Storybook Dads HMP Dartmoor Princetown Yelverton Devon PL20 6RR

Email: Website:

String of Pearls

String of Pearls is a small charity based in the South West. They were able to secure funding from the local probation service to run a series of multi-agency one-day training sessions to teach professionals – doctors, teachers, probation officers, social workers – about the needs of prisoners’ families in the community.

The aim of the training is to train professionals in offering tailored support to the children and families of prisoners that they encounter. The trainers use creative arts to bring the subject to life, including:

These materials were created during workshops with prisoners’ families and are available from String of Pearls through .

Sure Start children’s centres

A government programme to deliver the best start in life for every child by bringing together early education, child care, health and family support. It covers a wide range of programmes both universal and those targeted on particular local areas or disadvantaged groups within England.

Relevant guidance can found in Chapter 19 which sets out the responsibilities for staff in Sure Start and children’s centres in relation to the children of prisoners and the importance of supporting families to maintain family ties.

Link: Sure Start: children’s centres

Thames Valley Partnership (TVP)

The Thames Valley Partnership brings people and organisations together to create safe and stronger communities through identifying sustainable solutions to the problems of crime and social exclusion. Their innovative Family Matters programme works towards improving and integrating support to the children and families of prisoners and offenders.

To facilitate this process, TVP have delivered training in prisons and communities across the region. This has crossed the boundaries of traditional service provision. It has raised the profile and awareness of the difficulties faced by families, and led to the setting up of several Family Matters Community Networks (see Banbury practice site). These pilot networks are locality based and multi-disciplinary. They are child-focused and enable sharing of information and case planning about particular families affected by imprisonment.

TVP have also developed leaflets:

Additionally, behaviour support staff and educational psychologists in Banbury have developed a series of resources for teachers and teaching assistants to use when supporting children of prisoners. It is hoped they will become available nationally.

TVP have also pulled together much of the training material and resources, identified in this section, into one pack. This is available from TVP for £40+p&p.

Contact details

Townhill Barn Dorton Road Chilton Aylesbury Buckinghamshire, HP18 9NA Tel: 01844 202001 Fax: 01844 202008 Email: Website:

West Midlands ‘Families Do Matter’ children and families pathway project

This project is sponsored by the National Offender Management Service and aims to provide evidence of the longer-term impact and benefit of supporting offenders’ to maintain and strengthen their relationships with their children and families. It aims to bring together partner organisations from both prisons and communities to facilitate joint working and better outcomes for families.

The project is being piloted in localities across the West Midlands, and will undertake research and evaluation on:

Contact details

West Midlands Children and Families of Offenders Project All Saints House 280 Lodge Road Winson Green Birmingham B18 5SU Telephone: 0121 345 2873 Email: Website: