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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Uniting families in prisons

This feature is about 10 years old

The new chief executive of the Scottish Pre-school Play Association, Jean Carwood-Edwards, discusses its project working to unite families in prisons

Jean Carwood-Edwards
Jean Carwood-Edwards

The Scottish Pre-School Play Association (SPPA) strives to help give Scotland’s children the very best start in life. With a focus on prevention, early intervention and learning through play, SPPA is working with prisoners, their partners and young children.

What’s the project about?

Working to support families who are affected by imprisonment is important as many are destined to lead disadvantaged lives, missing out on normal family relationships and often feel stigmatized. By working in partnership with prison staff, SPPA aims to build and strengthen parent/child relationships to help reduce the revolving door of re-offending, both for the prisoners and the generational cycle. At visiting time, SPPA facilitates play and interactions as well as running sessions for dads to learn about attachment, brain development and how to play.

How is this work funded?

We work with a range of funders including the Scottish Government third sector early intervention fund, the Big Lottery Fund, the prisons themselves, councils and local agencies.

SPPA and prison staff believe they can work together to improve re-offending rates by providing opportunities to keep relationships strong.

Are families of prisoners well supported in Scotland?

In Scotland, there are a number of organisations dedicated to supporting families affected by imprisonment. Possibly the most significant shift in recent years though, lies at the heart of the Scottish Prison Service itself. Within prisons, there is now greater recognition and growing understanding of how striving for strong attachments and improved family relationships from the earliest years acts as the most effective vaccination for positive outcomes and improved life chances for children.

What do you aim to achieve from helping prisoners’ families?

SPPA and prison staff believe they can work together to improve re-offending rates by providing opportunities to keep relationships strong.

In many cases, prisoners are not confident about cuddling, playing with and interacting with their young children, perhaps because they didn’t experience a loving parent/child relationship themselves or didn’t have the opportunity to play. Now, at visiting time, instead of staying seated with little opportunity for physical contact, the SPPA play practitioner provides learning through play sessions where prisoners and their partners learn how to support their children’s literacy, learning and wellbeing.

Is this new territory for the SPPA?

SPPA has been working with families to support a two-generation shared approach to playing and learning for more than 45 years. In this sense, working with and on behalf of families is not new. However, starting to work in HMP Dumfries in Spring 2012 marked a first for SPPA in terms of working within a prison – in this sense it is fairly new territory! ​