Welsh Government
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Minister sees benefits of Invisible Walls

Yesterday the Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage, Mr Huw Lewis visited Parc Prison in Bridgend to see how an innovative project is helping to support current and released prisoners from reoffending.

The Invisible Walls project team work closely with prisoners, and their families, through a package of interventions which include specialist parenting and relationship programmes for the whole family, advice about family debt, training and education, housing advice and support, physical health and fitness and support in moving towards employment.

Mr Lewis said,

“It is quite obvious that once a person goes to prison, the effect on those left behind can be profound. That’s why it is great to see places like Parc developing services to help children and families overcome the difficulties they face when mum or dad is sent to prison. Our experience tells us that providing support to the whole family is the best way to ensure positive outcomes for children who most in need.”

Corin Morgan-Armstrong, Senior Manager at HMP Parc, said,

“The Invisible Walls project has the family unit at its heart and offers a real opportunity to reduce reoffending and social exclusion. Evidence also shows us that prisoners’ children are more likely to commit crime than their peers and as well as resettling current offenders back into the community, we also aim to divert their children away from crime. This public, private and voluntary sector initiative will deliver better outcomes for former offenders and their families as well as a significant cost saving for the public purse.”

Highlighting the importance of the project, Big Lottery Fund Wales Committee Member, Janet Reed, said,

“The Invisible Walls project will see intensive support provided to prisoners and their families both inside prison and after release to help with resettlement and to curb the destructive cycle of reoffending. Prevention is better and cheaper than cure and there is a growing body of evidence that if preventative interventions are effective, we can all spend less money on services such as prisons, acute medical care and drug rehabilitation.”

Parc Prison, which is managed privately on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, recognises that, once released from the prison, ex-offenders no longer benefit from the support they received through intervention programmes.

The Big Lottery Fund (BIG) has awarded a total of £3,137,466 to HMP and YOI Parc Prison in Bridgend to run its Invisible Walls project. Funding for the project is part of Replication and Innovation, a UK-wide funding programme that aims to use BIG’s networks and funding experience to target deep-rooted social problems. Over five years the programme will fund strategic initiatives working in carefully researched and identified areas of need.

The project also seeks to engage, support and motivate the partners and families of these individual prisoners, so that they too are proactively involved in the progress. Overwhelming evidence supports the tangible benefit in reducing reoffending that family focused work can have especially where it works with the whole family, and not just the offender in prison.

Some of the courses on offer include;

  • Family Centred Visits to maximise prisoners’ engagement with their families. There are fun family activities, competitions and family photos,
  • Learning Together Club allows fathers to spend time with their children without other family members. Children bring work from school to complete or can be provided with resources at the club,
  • Parenting for Dads allows fathers to interact, share experiences and develop parenting skills whilst absent from their children,
  • Moving Parents and Children Together focuses on the impact and support needed for prisoners who misuse substances within a family setting,
  • Relationship programmes, family debt advice, housing advice, health and employment information is also available.  

Invisible Walls intends to work and support the individual, the family, and the community in reducing the likelihood of the prisoners returning to crime and prison after release, whilst also improving the quality of life for some of the most socially excluded in our communities, and thus the communities themselves. It is also hoped that this focused activity will help to derail intergenerational offending, which in south Wales sees a disproportionate amount of young boys following their fathers into the revolving door of crime, court and prison.

Related Links

Big Lottery Fund

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