Family relationships are often the main source of emotional, practical and financial support for people in the criminal justice system, from the time of arrest to after release. Evidence shows that strong family relationships play a key role in reducing the possibility of reoffending. Family members care for the children and other vulnerable relatives of prisoners. They send money, clothes and books into prison and help ex-prisoners find work and accommodation.
The impact of a family member’s imprisonment can be considerable. Imprisonment has a profound impact on families, in particular on the children of imprisoned parents, who are at least twice as likely to experience mental health problems, be affected by poverty and become isolated and stigmatised.
Obstacles to effective services to support families include inadequate funding, inconsistent commissioning and lack of knowledge about the complexity of different families’ needs.
The voluntary sector has played a leading role in designing and delivering vital services that develop and maintain social relationships, as well as supporting adults and children affected by a family member’s involvement in the criminal justice system. Clinks members have developed and delivered services that utilise the benefits of family ties and provide the support people and their families really need when a family member goes to prison. They do this through prison visitor centres and visiting services, providing extended visits and delivering relationship education.
Are you looking for voluntary organisations working with families? Browse our Directory of Services.
Read Clinks case studies showcasing the innovative work of our members working with families.
Clinks thinks a clear government strategy is needed to advocate for consistent and specialist services that support positive social relationships for people in the criminal justice system in custody and post release, and which support children’s wellbeing.
What Clinks is doing
We give a collective voice to organisations that support the families of people in the criminal justice system and help to strengthen the evidence base for investing in good quality family support. We aim to showcase good and innovative practice, both in prisons and the community, and improve awareness and knowledge of the needs of families for organisations outside the criminal justice system. We facilitate a forum for voluntary organisations that support families delivering services in prisons and the community, to enable an ongoing dialogue and information exchange between voluntary organisations and the prison service.
The Farmer Reviews
In 2016, Lord Michael Farmer, in partnership with Clinks, was commissioned to chair an independent review into how supporting men in prison in England and Wales to engage with their families can reduce reoffending and address intergenerational crime. Clinks gathered the views of over 1,000 men in prison, their families, voluntary organisations across England and Wales, prison staff and academics.
The review process included visiting prisons, meeting with men and their families and issuing a public call for evidence from people and organisations through National Prison Radio and other outlets. It also brought together experts from the prison service, probation service and voluntary organisations working in the criminal justice system for a series of roundtable discussions with members of the task group assisting Lord Farmer.
The findings and recommendations of the Farmer Review (published in August 2017) emphasised the fundamental importance of family relationships. Lord Farmer said that each prison must include a local family offer to ensure effective family work is delivered inside prisons. He also stated that the Ministry of Justice should ensure the importance of family ties as a golden thread running through the new policy frameworks. The Farmer Review concluded that quality family services will help people turn away from crime and will support families to cope. Read our briefing for members on the final report.
In 2018, Lord Farmer reviewed the recommendations of his review through the lens of the needs of women in contact with the criminal justice system. The review looked more widely at how to strengthen family ties for women serving sentences in the community and in custody, as well as under probation supervision after release. Clinks was a member of the review’s expert panel and led the call for evidence. We heard from approximately 10% of the female prison population along with their families, the voluntary organisations that support them and academics. We are delighted that the voice of these experts has been able to help shape the focus and recommendations of the review and we are grateful to our members for facilitating this engagement. The report was published in June 2019 and made a total of 33 recommendations. You can access it here.
Clinks sits as a member of the Family Strategy Working Group to inform the implementation of both reviews’ recommendations. Please contact Nicola Drinkwater, Policy Manager if you would like more information.
10 Prisons Project family engagement programme
In 2018, the prisons minister launched the 10 Prisons Project – a 12 month initiative in 10 prisons to reduce violence and substance misuse as part of his wider strategy to stabilise the prison estate. Clinks was commissioned by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service to deliver a family engagement programme, as part of the 10 Prisons Project, with the support of on-site Family Engagement workers from voluntary agencies Pact, Lincolnshire Action Trust and Jigsaw. The programme was led by Polly Wright, Children & families policy, practice and research consultant.
The project aimed to support prisons to ensure that the role of ‘families and significant others’ was integrated into decision making and development processes, in order to stabilise the population and support implementation of the wider 10 Prison Project. The project focused on three key areas of prison delivery: safer custody, visit provision and roll out of the Offender Management in Custody (OMiC) key worker model. There were 3 key phases:
- Developing an understanding of current family practice.
- Development of tools, plans and resources to develop and embed family practice
- Ensure the tools, plans and resources are fit for purpose and replicable.
We have published four Think Family briefings which provide insight into current family practice within the prison estate as well as guidance about how to develop a Think Family approach.
The briefings are accompanied by a series of Think Family resources which can be downloaded, adapted and used to support the development of Think Family working.
Advising the Ministry of Justice
Clinks provides the chair and secretariat for an advisory group to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). The Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group’s (RR3) purpose is to build a strong and effective partnership between voluntary organisations working in the criminal justice system and the MoJ.
We established a special interest group to advise on the commissioning of family services in prison. It brought together voluntary organisations with a specialisation in family work with commissioners and policy makers from the MoJ and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service to discuss what good family services look like and how they might be commissioned.
The group published a paper that sets out five core principles along with 15 recommendations to support family services commissioning processes in the future.
Clinks and the RR3 continue to work with the MoJ and HMPPS to inform the development of commissioning processes and support for providers entering into these processes.
How to get involved with the Clinks group that advises the Ministry of Justice
Summary note of the RR3 Future Regime Design SIG meeting
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Other sources of support
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Pact is a national charity that supports prisoners and their families to make a fresh start.
Lincolnshire Action Trust provides resettlement and rehabilitation services for offenders, prisoners, ex-offenders, those at risk of offending and their families.
Ormiston is a charity based in Suffolk, UK who make children's lives better through our four programmes.
Jigsaw Visitors' Centre supports families and friends visiting loved ones in HMP Leeds.
POPS (Partners Of Prisoners and Family Support Group) POPS provides support services to the families and friends of offenders
Nepacs is a North East charity which aims to support a positive future for prisoners and their families, and to help them to maintain family ties
Spurgeons is a large national children's charity in the United Kingdom, working with vulnerable families, children and young people.
Barnardo's is a British charity founded to care for vulnerable children and young people
Choices provides supportive accommodation for women and children experiencing domestic abuse.
Safe Ground is charity using drama to educate prisoners and young people at risk in the community
NICCO is the National Information Centre on Children of Offenders.
The National Prisoners’ Families Helpline can support you if a family member is in contact with the criminal justice system. It provides advice and information on all aspects from what happens on arr…