Project supporting children of prisoners expands into HMP Northumberland

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A project which supports north east children with a parent or relative in prison has received a funding boost to help expand the service into HMP Northumberland. 

The Nepacs’ project, which has youth zones at HMP Holme House, Frankland and Low Newton and youth workers in the south of the region, is currently funded by BBC Children in Need and Comic Relief. The youth zones allow young people to find a safe place to relax in whilst waiting for their visit. Here they are joined by youth workers and volunteers, play games, engage in arts and crafts activities and should they want to share their worries or concerns with them. 

Now, with thanks to additional funding from the Wellesley Trust and the High Sheriff of Northumberland, Nepacs has set up a youth zone at the visitors centre at HMP Northumberland and recruited a youth worker to support young people visiting the prison. 

The funding received has enabled the charity to buy age-appropriate games and furniture for the new youth zone which will be open for young people visiting their imprisoned parent or relative at HMP Northumberland on weekends and during school holidays. A group of young people who were visiting the prison worked with the Nepacs’ team in the visitors centre to share their ideas on what should be available in the youth zone and went shopping with the team to buy the furniture and other equipment.

The new Nepacs’ youth worker for HMP Northumberland will coordinate activities for young people waiting to go into visits, provide activities for young people in the visits hall, and will organise transport and accompany young people from the local area to engage in regional youth project activities (including visits to the cinema or 10-pin bowling  and an annual residential which can be accessed by young people throughout the region).

Helen Attewell, chief executive of Nepacs said: "The Nepacs’ youth project provides an important service to older children and young people across the north east who are impacted by having a parent or relative in prison. Young people who have visited HMP Northumberland had told us that they would like an area designed for older children with age-appropriate games and activities, and somewhere they can go to have some space whilst they wait for their visit. We are therefore delighted to have received this additional funding as it will enable us to develop the youth project at HMP Northumberland where a large number of older children visit at weekends and during school holidays, including a dedicated youth zone. 

“The youth worker will be able to work with the young people visiting the prison, build up trust and encourage young people to open up about any concerning issues; but most importantly, they will encourage young people to develop an informal peer support group in order to make friends and reduce the isolation they experienced (as they may feel that they cannot talk about their experiences at school, because of the shame and stigma involved).”

The Nepacs’ youth project is currently recruiting new volunteers who would be willing to give up a few hours of their time to support this worthwhile project, particularly over school holidays and at weekends which is their busiest time. 

Helen added: “We are looking for volunteers to work with the youth project in Northumberland, Durham or Holme House in Stockton who may have travelled a similar journey, or have relevant skills or experience, and who can offer genuine understanding, empathy and emotional support. Volunteering with children and young people can be very rewarding and can also provide you with valuable training and experience.”

If you are interested in volunteering with the Nepacs youth project in Northumberland or elsewhere in the north east please get in touch with Emma Price at volunteering@nepacs.co.uk or find out more HERE.

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