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Image by Olya Adamovich from Pixabay
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Image by Olya Adamovich from Pixabay
UK News

Spurgeons charity gets £480,000 to help fathers in prison

A Christian children's charity has received funding to continue its work in prisons improving family relationships and break the crime cycle. 

It's estimated that each year, around 160,000 children have a parent in prison and a project called Invisible Walls, run by Spurgeons Children's Charity, has helped fathers improve their parenting skills and maintain healthy relationships with their children whilst in prison and after they're released. 

The programme has been awarded more than £450,000 by The National Lottery Community Fund to continue its work over the next three years. 

The London-based Maurice & Hilda Laing Charitable Trust has also announced it will also support Invisible Walls for the next three years, with a grant of £10,000 per year.

Each year, around 160,000 children have a parent in prison and the money will go towards offering families monthly days spending time together doing activities, organising a time for children to bring their homework to their Dad for help, providing one-to one support for fathers in prison and recording Dads reading stories that their kids can listen to at home when they miss them. 

The Spurgeon's team is also being trained by Hampshire police's crime commissioner in recognising advese childhood behaviour and how to help offenders recover. 

Launched in 2011, the Invisible Walls project was praised by peer Lord Farmer, whose 2017 Ministry of Justice Review stressed the importance of strengthening prisoners' family ties in the prevention of reoffending and intergenerational crime.

65% of boys with a convicted parent go on to offend and 37% of prisoners have family members who had been convicted of a crime. 

In a letter of support written last year, Lord Farmer described HMP Winchester as "a centre of excellence" in engaging the local community in rehabilitation work and highlighted Invisible Walls as a "beacon of good practice," describing its work in maintaining men's sense of responsibility towards their families as "transformational". 

 With the support of around 70 volunteers from local universities and the community, the charity works to do this through a programme of activities that features:

Spurgeons' Kerry Longhorn, who heads Invisible Walls, said: "In the early days of custody, fathers can be extremely anxious and distressed about their family circumstances,

"It is through engaging early with fathers in custody that we can help them, working with our Dads Reps - fathers in custody who volunteer to support other fathers - to make them aware of the support that we can provide, both for themselves and their families," she added.

Spurgeons Deputy Chief Executive Paul Ringer is delighted with the new funding awards: "This is a tremendous vote of confidence in Invisible Walls' track record in strengthening family relationships, of giving hope to those families who are living with imprisonment and reducing the reoffending rates of fathers on release."

"There's growing evidence that family support and maintaining family ties is not only important for the well-being of prisoners and their families but can also help prisoners' reintegration into the community following release," he added.


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