15th Jul 2020

A North East charity has launched a new service to support families and prisoners during the early days in custody at HMP Durham (reception prison in Durham City) and HMP&YOI Low Newton (women’s prison).

Nepacs, a long-standing charity in the North East of England which aims to support a positive future for prisoners and their families, has established the project thanks to funding for three years from the National Lottery Reaching Communities fund and a legacy gift donated to Nepacs from the Newcastle and Northumberland Police Courts Mission Fund.

The project got underway on 1 April, initially offering support to new residents arriving at the two prisons during their first week in custody and telephone support and information to families. Work is also taking place to establish a listening support helpline and recruit volunteers for the project.

The Nepacs manager of the project, Emma Price, said:

“We are delighted to have been able to get up and running in the two prisons, despite COVID-19 restrictions in place and to adapt our service to enable support to be offered to prisoners and their families during this difficult time.  The project is focussed on supporting those people who find it particularly difficult when a loved one is sent to prison, including young people, those with experience of being in care, older people, speakers of other languages, and people with literacy issues, mental health issues, learning difficulties or disabilities. They will be offered one to one support to tackle issues around family contact, but also to help with issues that arise when a person first goes to prison, such as child care and caring responsibilities.”

Prison visits are currently cancelled due to COVID-19 but once they are back up and running the team will offer support to families to enable them to visit their loved one in prison and gain help for their own issues to reduce the impact of imprisonment, especially for children.

They are however offering telephone support to those families to help alleviate some distress and confusion experienced by family members when a loved one is first sent into prison (either sentenced or on remand). This includes support and advice on how to keep in touch and practical information about visiting prison and where to go for support on issues that they may be facing.

As part of the project a North East helpline for families affected by imprisonment will be launched in September and Nepacs are currently recruiting volunteers to support this vital service. The impact of a loved one being sentenced to prison has a devastating impact on families and the helpline team will offer much needed information and emotional support to help people through a very difficult time. Volunteers will enable families to feel informed as they navigate their way through the criminal justice system, and will help people to stay connected in this challenging situation. Nepacs will run the first round of volunteer training on 15 and 16 August.  If you are friendly, non judgemental, patient and have excellent listening skills Nepacs would love to hear from you. Contact Nepacs Volunteer Coordinator by email or telephone on 0191 3757278.

More information on the charity is available at

< Back to posts