A CHARITY which supports prisoners and their families, has received funding from HM Prison and Probation Service to develop a project at two north east prisons to support young men and women who have been in care.

Nepacs will use the money to help young women at HMP&YOI Low Newton, in Durham, and young men at HMP Deerbolt, in Barnard Castle, who have had experience of being in care and may have lost social support networks in the community.

According to the Department for Education, children in care and care leavers account for less than one per cent of the general population, yet are vastly over-represented in the Criminal Justice System with more than 25 per cent of the adult prison population having previously been in care.

Nepacs was one of only 13 charitable organisations and social enterprises to receive funding through these grants. The aim is to improve the lives of offenders by applying the expertise, skills and ideas of voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations.

Helen Attewell, chief executive of Nepacs, said: “Many young people in prison have had appalling childhood experiences, and have not been able to rely on a supportive family to help them through tough times.

“We are thrilled that we had been successful in receiving this grant to work with young men and women who have experienced being in care, to ensure that we can support them to build successful crime-free lives for the future.”

The 2016 Prison Reform Trust: In Care, Out of Trouble report states that “young people leaving care are too often expected to reach independence at a young age and with insufficient information and practical and emotional support, increasing the risk of criminalisation”.

Furthermore “they often feel isolated and unsupported at critical moments, not least if they have to appear in court or spend time in custody”.

Ms Attewell said: “The principal aim is to improve contact for care experienced residents of Deerbolt and Low Newton with their local authority personal advisors, families, carers and significant others; and to improve their chances of having a successful resettlement following release from prison by supporting this group of residents to feel connected to their communities.”

Nepacs project workers will work with young people up to the age of 25 providing one to one support work including listening support and mentoring and encouraging them to identify supportive significant others to come in and visit.

They will also trial Family Group Conferences to help create a support network for the young person in their home area; to support them whilst serving the sentence but also around the planned release. Longer term, the project will co-create a group work programme/resource pack focussing on independent living, building resilience, emotional wellbeing and building positive relationships.

For more information about Nepacs go to www.nepacs.co.uk.