The Minister for Early Years and Childcare, Maree Todd MSP, has today officially opened Early Years Scotland’s new Family Visitor Centre at HMP Low Moss.
Staffed by three highly experienced professionals, the visitor centre allows the children and families of prisoners an opportunity to relax and play, before visiting their loved one; and offers support, information and impartial advice relating to housing, finance and travel issues, children and health matters.
The facility at Low Moss has been running since July and is one of four new family visitor centres to open in Scottish prisons this year, following on from HMP Glenochil, HMP Shotts, and HMP Inverness. The Scottish Government has provided £1.8 million in funding to open the centres, and to support seven existing centres.
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 £1.8 million 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.”
“Children will benefit from work being delivered in HMP Low Moss through the Early Years Scotland Father’s Programme and Stay Play and Learn programme. Children will have increased and quality contact with their parent in prison through the services in the family visitor centre.”
Chief Executive of Early Years Scotland, Jean Carwood-Edwards, said: “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.
“The Family Visitor Centre has only been open for a very short time, and already we are seeing and hearing children and families say how much of a difference this welcome extra layer of support is making to their lives, especially when they are often already dealing with difficulties that are complex and multi-layered. I feel very proud that Early Years Scotland has been given this opportunity to work in partnership with parents, Scottish Government and the Scottish Prison Service to give families of prisoners a voice, a place to turn to, and a warm welcome when they visit their loved ones in prison.
“I look forward very much to working with our partners in HMP Low Moss to ensure that our new and much needed Family Visitor Centre goes from strength to strength and that children and families receive the welcome, support and respect that they deserve.
HMP Low Moss Governor, Sharanne Findlay, said: “HMP Low Moss is delighted to be in partnership with Early Years Scotland, in this new and exciting project based in Low Moss. We look forward to working with a group who have many years’ experience in working with families and children. I am sure that they will bring a positive focused approach to the running of the Family Centre and I know that our staff will work hand in hand with EYS staff to ensure the project is a huge success.
“This Family Centre will be a massive resource for the families of the men in our care and we hope it will give as much help and support as people require.”
Chair of the National Prison Visitors Centre Steering Group, Andrew McLellan, said: “We are delighted to see such great progress towards achieving our ambition of establishing a Prison Visitors Centre at every prison in Scotland. We know that supporting prisoners to maintain positive family ties reduces reoffending and makes Scotland safer. Yet prisoners’ families and prisoners’ children in particular often pay a very high price for their family member’s imprisonment.
“Too often financial difficulties, emotional trauma and a lack of support are all part and parcel of having someone in prison. The warm welcome and practical support these services offer make a huge difference to family members during what can be a very difficult time.”
Pictured left to right are: Sharanne Findlay, Governor HMP Low Moss; Jean Carwood-Edwards, Chief Executive, Early Years Scotland; Maree Todd, Minister for Childcare and Early Years.