News from Visiting Mum

Project supporting mothers to still be parents from prison

The Integrated Offender Management (IOM) Cymru Team took part in a recent event in the Vale of Glamorgan where support for women in prison, and their families, was on the agenda.

The event, organised by PACT and Sova - the third sector organisations supporting prisoners and their families – aimed to raise awareness amongst partner organisations of the charity’s joint Visiting Mums initiative.  By working with mothers to help them continue their parenting role from within prison, Visiting Mums aims to combat the ‘hidden sentence’ endured by children whose mothers are in prison, while improving mental health outcomes and wellbeing for those children.

IOM Cymru programme lead Wendy Hyett spoke at the event, which was attended by a wide range of partners, including Wales Probation and Wales CRC, prisons, social workers and Third Sector representatives. Wendy discussed the ‘whole system approach’ being delivered for women in Wales: “We are focused on working with women right across the criminal justice system. The support offered by projects such as Visiting Mum, both to children and the wider family, is vitally important. Working together, we can make a positive impact on the experiences of children and young people affected by imprisonment, as well as on inter-generational cycles of crime.”

At the event, participants heard from a woman in custody at Eastwood Park: “Being a prisoner and having a family ‘on the out’ is so hard… Us mums always talk about our kids together. When I first came in, I didn't realise there were so many ways we could still keep in touch with our kids; ways to let them know that we still love them and think of them every day”.

As part of the project, volunteers take the children to the prison regularly, and provide them with the wrap-around emotional support they need. In recent years there has been mounting evidence that maintaining positive family contact not only supports reduction in re-offending on release, but also helps to improve engagement and compliance both in custody and on release.

We would like to thank John Andrews Charitable Trust for their generosity.  Last year the Visiting Mum project received £4,000 from the Trust, which enabled more vulnerable families to access extra visits to see their mothers in prison, and building on our relationship with the Trust we have received a further £3645.00.

The funding enabled us to commission Welsh Women’s Aid to deliver Domestic Abuse training to the volunteers. Also funding helped pay for mini buses to transport children and their families to the Christmas family fun event at HMP Eastwood Park, Gloucester, which took place on Thursday 22 December.