A ground breaking project providing befriending support to friends and families visiting courts has been launched at Durham Crown Court, thanks to a funding boost from Ron Hogg, Durham Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).
The Nepacs project, which started at Teesside Combined Courts in July 2013 thanks to funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, provides much-needed support and comfort to families who come to court to support a loved one facing a custodial sentence.
Nepacs has received £20,204 funding in total from the PCC – £15,624 to enable Nepacs staff and volunteers to develop the project at Durham Crown Court and a further £4,580 towards the provision of special visits for children and families of prisoners.
Support is offered to families attending court by a team of volunteers, under the leadership of Jane Leak, the Nepacs support at courts coordinator.
The volunteers are available within the courts offering listening support, information and continued support outside of court through a telephone befriending service. In its first year 93 individuals received long term support to help cope with the impact of imprisonment on their lives.
The project volunteers work closely with Nepacs’ prison visitor centre teams and family support workers to help reduce families and friends’ worries and anxieties about visiting prison.
Ron said: “Nepacs staff and volunteers provide an important service to families and individuals in an unfamiliar and formal setting which can be very daunting at such a difficult time. I am proud to be associated with this excellent project and I am delighted that so many more people will get the extra support they need.”
Jane Leak, Nepacs support at courts coordinator, said: “We are delighted to have received this additional funding as it will enable us to develop the service at Durham Crown Court and offer support to even more families going through a very difficult time.
“Every year thousands of families experience court proceedings and the impact of a custodial sentence despite never having being involved in or committed a crime. From the moment of arrest and throughout the court process families are at risk of social isolation and stigma which can affect their emotional, physical, financial and social wellbeing.
“For those families who are unfamiliar with the judicial system or who are unprepared this can be a distressing time. Our dedicated team on the ground offer a listening ear, a helping hand and friendly support to help make things a little easier.”
The team are always recruiting new volunteers who would be willing to give up a few hours of their time to support this worthwhile project.
Jane added: “We are looking for volunteers 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 families and making a difference can be very rewarding and can also provide you with valuable training and experience.”
If you are a family experiencing similar issues and would like to talk to someone please get in touch with the befriending team on 07774 385276
If you are interested in volunteering with the Nepacs court project in Durham or Teesside please get in touch with Jane Leak at jleak@nepacs.co.uk or visit our website www.nepacs.co.uk to find out more.
To find out more about the work of Nepacs, including how you can get involved or make a donation please visit www.nepacs.co.uk or telephone 0191 375 7278.