A CHARITY which supports prisoners and their families has received new funding from the Ministry of Justice to support men being released from a young offencers institution (YOI) in County Durham who have experienced being in care.

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 .

The new project – called ‘Building Bridges’ - builds on support that the charity Nepacs already offers in HMP YOI Deerbolt to young men aged 18 to 24 years who have had experience of being in care and may have lost social support networks in the community.

The new Nepacs service, which will run for 18 months at Deerbolt, near Barnard Castle, is one of only seven projects to receive one of these MOJ grants, aimed at improving outcomes of prison leavers.

The project supports care leavers six weeks before release and then 12 weeks after release in the community - helping to bridge the gap between custody and community.

The team are also working in partnership with Shannon Trust to help give the young people the opportunity to gain greater skills in literacy for life.

All prison leavers with care experience being released from Deerbolt are allocated a Nepacs resettlement coach, volunteer befriender, peer mentor and Shannon Trust reading coach - who will work with local authority leaving care teams, prison, probation and other agencies to help get the best outcome for the young men leaving prison.

Amanda Lacey, 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 new grant to build on our work with young men who have experienced being in care, to ensure that we can support them to build successful crime-free lives for the future.

"The principal aim of the project is to help the young men being released from Deerbolt to improve their chances of having a successful resettlement following release from prison by providing essential support, coordinating services, advocacy and addressing any needs during this transition including supporting access to counselling."

Ian Merrill, chief executive of Shannon Trust, said: “Shannon Trust have worked in prisons for more than 20 years, supporting people to learn to read. We are now embarking on a new chapter, by extending this support to people engaging with a number of community services.

"We know the transformative impact learning to read can have not just on the individual, but on society as a whole, and are delighted to be a part of this project, supporting care experienced young people.”

For more information on Nepacs, visit www.nepacs.co.uk or follow them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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