Innovative project allows play time for children and parents within prison walls

Project aims to maintain meaningful connections

Families Outside, a charity helping families of prisoners, has been working with the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) to launch ‘Game With Mum and Dad’ at HMP Grampian.

The event, which took place on 29 June, was part of a Children of Prisoners Europe (COPE) campaign where children got to play a game of football with their dad, mum, or caregiver, behind prison walls.

The day was held in collaboration with Denis Law Legacy Trust, who also run the Club10 and Streetsport programmes which offer free sport and creative activities to young people.

Speaking on the event, Streetsport development officer, Kiana Coutts, said “Game with Mum and Dad is a hugely important initiative that we are proud to be a part of.

“Every child deserves to feel loved and supported, regardless of their circumstances, and sport is a fantastic way to bring families together for a day of fun and play. We are looking forward to building on the sessions we deliver weekly at HMP Grampian and taking part in the international campaign alongside our partners at Families Outside.”

An estimated 20-27,000 children are affected by parental imprisonment each year in Scotland – twice as many as experience a parent’s divorce.

Research by Families Outside has shown that maintaining meaningful connections with a loved one in prison comes at a significant cost to children and families, both financially and emotionally.

The high cost of travel and transport, distance to the prison, subsistence, accommodation, childcare, and time off work all factor into a family’s ability to remain in contact.

Kirsten Law, Families Outside regional manager for the north of Scotland, said: “Playing games with your parents is a formative and normal thing in most childhoods. Sadly, when a parent goes to prison, these moments no longer exist and visiting in prison can be scary for children.

“This is why ‘Game With Mum and Dad’ is so important, it’s an opportunity for families to bond, make memories and have fun together. Families Outside, Streetsport, and SPS worked alongside the children to form and plan an action-packed morning of activities culminating in a family football match and they all had a great day together.”

The ‘Game With Mum and Dad’ campaign is also part of “Not my crime, still my sentence”, COPE’s annual drive to safeguard the rights of the estimated 2 million children in Europe who have a parent in prison. Families Outside are pleased to be a part of this initiative and hope to see more prisons involved in the campaign in the future.

Stuart Campbell, head of operations at HMP Grampian, said: “HMP Grampian is delighted to be involved in facilitating this event. Our dedicated Family Strategy Group, and Family Contact Team, are involved in organising events to bring families together with their loved one in custody, and the ‘Game With Mum and Dad’ is a prime example of a fun and structured event that will help to nurture family ties.”

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