Impact of 'Visiting Mum' scheme for women prisoners

By agency reporter
October 20, 2017

A report by the University of Cardiff highlights the positive impact of the work of the Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT) in supporting mothers in Eastwood Park Prison.

The study examined the impact of the Visiting Mum scheme, a Big Lottery Wales funded initiative which for the past three years has provided assistance to Welsh children visiting their mothers in prison at HMP Eastwood Park in Gloucestershire.

The Visiting Mum scheme, developed and run by PACT in partnership with Sova, a volunteering charity, was established as a three year proof of concept innovation, to test out a new approach to meeting the needs of mothers in custody. Many mothers were not receiving visits by their children. The scheme involved the following elements:

  • Volunteers in the community supported children and caregivers to visit
  • Support was provided with transport
  • Visits were held in a family room rather than in a large visits hall
  • Mothers were provided with one-to-one family casework support
  • Parenting and relationship education classes were provided to improve the skills and confidence of mothers in prison to prepare for release.

Key findings from the study include evidence that:

  • Self-harm and adjudications are reduced for mothers in custody who access Visiting Mum
  • Children feel less anxious and less intimidated by the prison environment when supported by volunteers and when the visits are held in more family-friendly settings
  • Women feel less anxious about the welfare of their children and most have a minimum of monthly visits and regular telephone contact
  • Women feel that their mental health is improved by accessing Visiting Mum services
  • Women feel that the scheme will help them to integrate back into family and community life upon release
  • The carers for the children believe that the Visiting Mum scheme helps to relieve the emotional and financial pressures on them, where little other support is available.

PACT has also made a film, Not Just a Prisoner: Voices of Mothers in Prison. PACT collaborated with a group of six mothers currently serving prison sentences to create the film, in which you can hear the women's own voices, telling their experiences of arrest, sentencing, their first days in prison and how their imprisonment has impacted their relationships with their children and families. They also discuss their hopes for the future and the impact that PACT's support has had on their lives, their roles as mothers and their relationships with their children.

The film will be used to raise awareness of the challenges facing mothers in prison, the importance of maintaining family contact, and will enable PACT to train other professionals to support women in similar situations.

Watch the film Not Just a Prisoner here

Read the University of Cardiff report here

* Prison Advice and Care Trust


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