Bishop of Durham the Right Revd Paul Butler has become the Patron of Nepacs, a north east charity which supports a positive future for prisoners and their families.
The Bishop follows in the footsteps of his two predecessors, who were also Patrons, and the organisation is close to his heart as he is the Church of England’s national lead on Children, Young People and Families as well as safeguarding.
Nepacs has been working in the north east of England for 130 years, working in prisons across the region and in the community. It welcomes more than 130,000 visitors through its visitors’ centres each year and nearly 20,000 children use Nepacs’ play facilities at prisons each year.
In addition, Nepacs provides tea bars, family support and play areas within prison visit rooms, and organises special visits for children so that they can spend quality time with their parent.
Nepacs also helps about 500 offenders and/or their families each year with a small grant to help them with challenges they are experiencing or to aid resettlement.
Much of its work is delivered by volunteers and Bishop Paul, speaking on a visit to a Nepacs centre at HMP Holme House Prison in Stockton, said: “Visiting prison can be an uncertain time for families and Nepacs can help make the experience less daunting. I am proud to be Patron for Nepacs, whose committed team of volunteers are helping people through a difficult time in their lives and making a real difference.”
Nepacs CEO Helen Attewell said that there was a long link between the Church and the organisation.
She said Nepacs’ work helped families, and particularly children, to cope with the imprisonment of a loved one.
She said: “When a loved one goes to prison the impact on families and friends can be devastating, which is why our staff and volunteers provide friendship and support during this difficult time. We are all about making families feel supported and welcome, and it is important that we provide them with the information that they need.
“We see ourselves as helping to maintain family ties, as it not only helps the families but can also help prisoners’ resettlement and reduce reoffending.
“We are delighted that the Bishop of Durham has agreed to be our Patron. The Church is an important part of the wider community and prisoners will be part of that wider community when they are released. We would welcome more volunteers with a faith background to come forward and support our work.”
HMP Holme House visitors’ centre manager Hilary Askin said: “We are delighted that the Bishop came to Holme House to see how our dedicated team of volunteers are helping people. What we do is really important. Visiting prison can be a very stressful time for families and we support them in whatever way possible to make visiting their loved one easier.”
Volunteer Peter Smith, who volunteers at Holme House Visitors’ Centre with his wife, said: “Families are often the ones who feel it most because they have done nothing wrong. It is nice to be able to help them.”
Nepacs, is a long standing charity, which works across the north east region to help support a positive future for prisoners and their families. Staff and volunteers from Nepacs provide a number of services to support friends and families of prisoners, in HMP Northumberland, HMP Frankland, HMP Holme House, HMP Durham, HMYOI Deerbolt, HMP Kirklevington Grange and HMP&YOI Low Newton. These services include prison visitors’ centres and tea bars, play sessions for prisoners’ children and youth projects, integrated family support and support within the Middlesbrough courts.