Spurgeons Volunteers Honoured For Their Work In Prison Family Support Service
Yesterday, the award-winning ‘Invisible Walls’ prison-based family support service run out of HMP Winchester by Spurgeons celebrated volunteers at their awards ceremony in the Visitor’s Centre.
The event was an opportunity to honour our volunteers who work in supporting the service’s almost 600 fathers in custody since 2016, a programme which incorporates a variety of support including monthly family days, parenting courses and homework clubs. There was a tea for volunteers and staff, and awards were presented in various categories.
Support for thousands of children
Since Invisible Walls opened in 2011, 148 ‘Time for You and Your Child’ parenting courses have been delivered to 985 inmates. In addition, total of 77 workshops saw 468 inmates attending.
Over 46, 943 friends and families and over 10,458 children have been supported through the prison visitor’s centre and the play area.
Appreciation of volunteer’s work
The Mayor of Winchester, Councillor Angela Clear, was in attendance and provided a keynote address in which she said, ‘I cannot imagine what a difficult time it must be for many when they have a loved one imprisoned, it must be very hard. But this is where the brilliant dedication of all the volunteers helps so much.
The benefit of this is so important and I can tell how proud the volunteers are of the work you do. I have heard you all described as a beacon of good practice and want to thank you for this. I intend to spread the word about the good work you do.’
Prison Family Services Manager, Victoria Baird said, ‘This event was so important to take a moment to show our appreciation to our wonderful volunteers. Those in attendance and those unable to join us all do an amazing job supporting visitors during what can often be a very difficult time.
‘It was a lovely afternoon, and the Invisible Walls team worked hard to make the event happen. It was a pleasure being able to come together and recognise their hard work, dedication, and care.
By offering such a welcoming environment our volunteers help to reduce these anxieties, making the visit less stressful and much more enjoyable for the whole family.’
About Invisible Walls
The Invisible Walls volunteers focus their work on supporting the families who attend the visitor’s centre to see a loved one. This support is vital to the effective running of the programme which exists to support prisoners and their families to minimise the often trauma-inducing transition from imprisonment to release for parent-child relationships.
The governor of HMP Winchester, Jim Bourke said, ‘HMP Winchester protects the public by keeping in safe, decent, and secure custody those committed by the courts. That gives communities respite and prevents harm while they are imprisoned. But the real value is only achieved if we help prisoners to a crime-free future. We know that connection with family, or a significant other, is the biggest single factor that can drive real change and desistence from crime and halt the too familiar issue of intergenerational crime and imprisonment.
‘Spurgeons provide the expertise needed to help children and families and teach prisoners to be better husbands and fathers. Spurgeons, supported by tens of volunteers, in many small and large ways, make the lives of those touched by imprisonment better and our communities safer.’
A commitment to volunteering
Out of the 70 volunteers who help with the running of the programme, some have volunteered for over a decade. Jennie Espiner a volunteer who has been with the service for 12 years, and currently supports the delivery of the Homework club said, ‘I have worked for many organisations as a volunteer, and this is the only organisation where I have felt truly valued.’
The Invisible Walls service won the High Sheriff of Hampshire Community Award in 2021 and the 2016 Children & Young People Now Award under the Family Support category. In 2017 the programme won praise from Lord Michael Farmer who was commissioned to chair an Independent Ministry of Justice Review. He expressed HMP Winchester as “a centre of excellence” in engaging the local community in rehabilitation work and highlighted ‘Invisible Walls’ as a “beacon of good practice”.