This Christmas, Family Support Worker Lauren for Spurgeons Prison-based family support services at HMP Swaleside and Elmley on the Isle of Sheppey organised a community Christmas giving campaign to enable gifts to be provided to children and families as well as vulnerable individuals on the island who would not be able to see their families this year. Lauren writes:
‘‘We have had such a lovely response from the residential homes, community and prison staff. It has been really lovely to see how everyone has pulled together.”
‘‘At HMP Swaleside, we are usually tied up with Family Days throughout December. It is probably our busiest month due to the festive period. In normal circumstances, we organise presents and selection boxes to be donated from the local community to gift to the children that attend the festive Family Days, visiting their fathers in prison. One of the officers dress up as Santa and we take photos of the child with their family members receiving their present in front of a grotto (this was also painted and given to us by a resident residing in Swaleside). Not only does this bring a smile to those visiting but it also gives the residents a chance to experience something that they would usually miss out on, as well as being there for a key event in the child’s life.’’
‘‘Due to the current pandemic and the restrictions that come with that, we were unable to run Family Days this year. As well as many other things we have put in place to ensure that the residents and their families are still able to have some form of contact and support during this time, we held ‘winter workshops’ for the residents to attend. They were given the opportunity to make something for their child(ren) and complete a card, which we then posted out for them in time for the festive period.’’
‘‘In addition to the above, we looked for ways to include our local community during this time and to reach out to those that may need our support. It was decided that we would set up a ‘Caring for the Community’ event. After contacting various residential care homes for the vulnerable (from children to the elderly) it became quite apparent that many of their residents will not be having contact with their families during this time. They were unable to have visits from their family members or receive gifts from them. This year has been, and continues to be difficult for most, let alone those that would be without family members throughout the festive period.’’
‘‘We were soon inundated with prison staff members and their families asking to be given someone to purchase a gift for. Over 76 residents have been provided for so far. We were lucky enough for ASDA to respond to our calls for help advising that they were happy to donate some chocolates to be given to alongside each gift!’’
‘‘Going forward, this is something we would like to continue each year and we have now built links within the local area with community champions who have offered to support us with future events.”
-Lauren, Family Support Worker – HMP Swaleside
About Spurgeons Prison-based Family Support Services:
Spurgeons delivers family support services in 12 prisons across England. These services provide family support services for prisoners and their families and friends who visit them, with a particular focus on children and strengthening family relationships. We appreciate how important prison visits are for everyone involved. Our aim is to make them less daunting so that the time spent together helps families to re-connect in a positive way. We are always here to offer practical and emotional support.
To learn more about our work in prisons, click here.