Early years charity opens new family visitor centre in prison

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Early Years Scotland has opened a new family visitor centre at HMP Low Moss.

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Left to right: Sharanne Findlay, Governor HMP Low Moss, Jean Carwood-Edwards, chief executive Early Years Scotland, and Maree Todd, Minister for Childcare and Early Years

The facility at Low Moss is one of four new family visitor centres to open in Scottish prisons this year, following HMP Glenochil, HMP Shotts and HMP Inverness.

The Scottish Government is spending a total of £1.8 million on all four of the centres.

Early Years Scotland will manage just the centre in HMP Low Moss, which was offically opened by the minister for early years and childcare Maree Todd officially. The aim of the family visitor centre is to provide information and support for families who are affected by imprisonment.

The centre employs three members of staff - a centre coordinator, a family support worker and an early years practitioner - who runs a range of activities for visiting children including stories, painting, arts and crafts, playdough, board games, rubix cubes and colouring.

There is also a tea bar with free hot drinks for families, a children’s play area, a confidential space for families to discuss personal issues, and a range of resources available for both children and adults.

Ms Todd said, ‘We are committed to doing all we can to make Scotland the best place for children to grow up. We know that children can suffer greatly from the effect of a family member being imprisoned, particularly a parent. That is why we are supporting the development of prison visitor centres across Scotland through £1.8million grant funding from 2015 to 2018.

‘I am pleased to launch the family visitor centre in HMP Low Moss. It is a brilliant example of an innovative approach to enhancing the experience of families visiting prison. It will provide independent and impartial advice, information and support to meet the specific needs of prisoners’ families.’

Chief executive of Early Years Scotland Jean Carwood-Edwards added, ‘All too often the children and families of prisoners feel that they are made to pay for crimes they haven’t committed – they are innocent and often in need of understanding and assistance. That is why we work with children and their parents or carers when they come to visit at the six prisons EYS currently supports.

‘Children affected by parental imprisonment are often the very children who are in most need of support, but sadly, they are least likely to receive it.  They keep quiet, often due to feelings of unfounded shame and stigma.

‘Through our Stay Play and Learn programme, our fathers’ programme and now, our brand new family visitor centre at HMP Low Moss, we aim to do everything we can to help ensure children’s lives are as positive as they can be, and to help break the cycle of re-offending.’

Early Years Scotland works with prisoners, their children and families in several Scottish prisons with the aim of encouraging improved attachments between prisoners and their children to create more positive outcomes.

More information on these services can be found in this short film (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7LCRtPZgds&t=7s)

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