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UK News

Christian charity keeping parents behind bars connected with children as lockdown stops visits

by Tola Mbakwe

A Christian charity hasn't let the coronavirus lockdown stop it from continuing work in supporting families who have a parent in prison. 

Spurgeons Children's Charity, which provides family support and services at twelve prisons across the country, has started a programme to help prisoners and loved ones who are struggling to cope with lockdown.

The organisation has provided letter writing packs for both prisoners and their children to help keep in touch. 

It is also facilitating an 'email a prisoner' program in which inmates can email the charity about anything relating to their child and the charity can contact the family on their behalf. 

Nadine Massey who oversees the programme told Premier communication is key for children with parents in prison. 

"I think it's more important now than ever. Dads need to still remain a constant in their children's lives and just because they're in prison doesn't mean to say that their responsibilities move away."

The charity usually conducts parenting classes for fathers behind bars, but due to the lockdown it has provided self-study parenting packs so fathers can continue to learn how to navigate parenthood.

Massey said: "We evaluate them with the dads to discuss their learning to see if they want the next pack. We do it in stages. So there is a real connection that shows dad still wants to be part of their children's lives, which is great. 

"And then as soon as lockdown is over and we have our family days and our visits they can put their parenting in practice it becomes more of a positive experience for them."

Spurgeons has also created children's resource pack including a selection of activities, worksheets and child-friendly information about coronavirus and other topics to help them through the pandemic. 

Naomi Webb, the visitors' centre nanager at HMP Norwich, said: "The decision to cancel prison visits across the country, although necessary under the current circumstances, is having huge implications for those in custody and their families and children.

"For most, visits are both an integral part of routines and something the family unit will, as a whole, look forward to immensely and they are proven to help families get through a period of living with imprisonment.

"While most of us are grateful to live in a time where we can use technology to keep in contact with family outside our own households, this isn't available to those families with someone in custody.

"That's why everyone is doing everything they can to try to help those families as much as possible and to limit any further impact coronavirus might have."

Each year, around 160,000 children in the UK have a parent in prison, according to Spurgeons Children's Charity. 

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