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Unit 83, 17 Third Avenue, Heatherhouse Industrial Estate, Irvine, KA12 8HN

Let’s Talk – Families Outside

Community Justice Ayrshire are championing the efforts of the third sector across Ayrshire.

We want to highlight the positive difference the sector is making in people’s lives and in our communities.  We also want people to understand the importance of their role in community justice and reducing re-offending.

We hope this information will raise awareness of the significance of third sector services and highlight some of the important work undertaken in our communities.

Today we shine the spotlight on Families Outside.


Families Outside is the only national charity in Scotland that works solely on behalf of families affected by imprisonment by offering direct support to families via their Helpline and Regional Family Support Coordinators.  They provide training and information to a host of professionals who come into contact with families affected by imprisonment. Families Outside also conduct research and provide information and resources to their supporters, funders, and government highlighting the issues affecting families and campaigning to improve policy and practice so that families are better provided for.


When a person is arrested, found guilty and sent to prison society breathes a sigh of relief – the person who committed the crime is being punished and the people are being protected.  But what about the families that are being left behind? The parents, partners, siblings and, perhaps most importantly, the estimated 27,000 children in Scotland who have a parent in prison.  They are innocent but are often treated as though they are guilty. They feel stigma, rejection, victimisation and rarely know who to turn to for help.  Families Outside speak to thousands of families providing information and support on issues such as housing, finance, anxiety, and depression.


The Families Outside Support & Information Helpline is often the first port of call for families needing support. The dedicated team receives approximately 3000 contacts each year providing independent information and support to help families and those working with them deal with the issues they face when a loved one is in prison.

Family Support

If family members require more in-depth support the team of Regional Family Support Workers are on hand throughout Scotland and can offer direct, face to face support until a positive outcome is reached.

Young People

Scottish Government figures estimate that 20 – 27,000 children in Scotland have a parent in prison each year.  It’s important for young people to know that they are not alone, that there are others who face similar issues, and that, most importantly, it’s not their fault!

Families Outside can provide direct support over the phone, arrange for direct 1:1 support or if suitable engage in our Group work and Peer Support.

“It feels so much better just being able to speak with you.  Having someone to talk to at the end of the phone.  You are non-judgemental and it’s good to check things past you.  Sometimes just having someone not connected and who understands is such a great help.  A wee bit of support for me it really helps having you to listen.”

Group Work & Peer Support

The Group Work and Peer Support service encourages families to work together and learn from one another’s lived experience.  The Group Work & Peer Support team is creating group work sessions to support children, young people, and their carers in the west of Scotland.

Despite all the challenges that the Coronavirus has brought, Families Outside are still supporting families through our ‘Our Voice’ Peer Support Group. The group offers peer support to children and young people aged between 8-18 years affected by imprisonment. The group is delivered via Zoom online (during lockdown) and is for all children, young people, and families whether they have regular contact with their family member in prison, or no contact at all.  The Peer support groups are held monthly on Zoom and returning to some face-to-face activity groups during the summer holidays.

Some quotes from a parent and the young people who attend the ‘Our Voice’ Peer support group are noted below.

“I appreciate all you’ve done for us in a short space of time. YP going on the zoom call for the meeting and group is not like them as they still don’t go on zoom calls to their CALMS worker”.

“It’s good to really talk about something so deep as I don’t talk to other people like this as they don’t know what it’s like”

“I enjoyed the group tonight and will be back for next month’s group”

“It helps me when we have these conversations, it reminds me of how far I have come and that I am not alone”

“I’m happy to be at the group and in a chilled space”

“This is great, I like playing bingo and the prizes”

“This is my safe space”


Families Outside deliver training across Scotland to a wide range of professionals who may come in to contact with families, including children, who are affected by the imprisonment of a family member. The training is designed to raise awareness of the impact of imprisonment on families, improve practice and develop the knowledge and skills of participants required when supporting the families.

Due to the pandemic Families Outside recognised that although community facing training had to cease there was still a need to deliver the key messages to a wide audience.  A free online Webinar was developed and has been delivered monthly.   Families Outside used this opportunity to review their existing training packages and have now designed three separate modules which have been accredited.  The individual modules will mean that the content will be more relevant to individual’s line of work.   The titles of the modules are:

  • Understanding the issues for families affected by imprisonment
  • Supporting children and young people who have a family member in prison
  • Prison and prison visiting

For more information on our training, and details of how to sign up when they are available, please visit

“I found it very informative and interesting and will allow me to understand more about impact imprisonment can have on children and signpost appropriately to families who require support due to family imprisonment”

“I remember having a child in my placement class last year who really struggled to cope with one of their parents being imprisoned just weeks before my arrival.  At the time I felt I was quite powerless and unable to offer any meaningful support other than listening to her concerns.  I feel that following this input today, I am now better equipped to help other children in a similar position in the future.  Thank you!”

“I really liked how the session made links with Adverse Childhood Experiences as well as having a Trauma Informed Approach which we had covered in previous inputs. Thank you Kerry for this highly informative and relevant session.” 


Nadine Sloan is the dedicated Regional Family Support Co-ordinator covering North, South and East Ayrshire as well as Dumfries and Galloway.    Prior to the pandemic Nadine was working in offices across Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway, however, is now working from home and contactable via the helpline.

Nadine has developed positive links with the Family and Friends Hub and Prison Staff at HMP Kilmarnock.  They meet regularly to update on issues, supports and opportunities to improve the experience for families having a loved one in a prison establishment.

“It’s lovely having you check in on me.  I don’t have anyone.  You give hope to me on my darkest days.”

Over the years, Community Justice Ayrshire have worked closely with Families Outside to support the delivery of Out of the Shadows training session on the impact of imprisonment for families. In 2019/2020, 158 staff across Ayrshire from a wide range of statutory and third sector services have accessed this training.

Families Outside have been working with Community Justice Ayrshire again to support the delivery of their new accredited training modules (see above) and these will be rolled out across Ayrshire later this year.

Family Support Statistics 01.01.2020 – 31.12.2020

East Ayrshire
Total Cases 24 Total Family Members Impacted 37
Direct 1-1 Support 9 Adults 27
Helpline 15 Pre-School 2
Primary 5
Secondary 3
Post School 0
North Ayrshire
Total Cases 15 Total Family Members Impacted 20
Direct 1-1 Support 7 Adults 14
Helpline 8 Pre-School 1
Primary 1
Secondary 3
Post School 1
South Ayrshire
Total Cases 18 Total Family Members Impacted 29
Direct 1-1 Support 8 Adults 21
Helpline 10 Pre-School 1
Primary 7
Secondary 0
Post School 0



On 18 December 2020, Families Outside received a grant of £50,000 from the Scottish Government entitled the Winter Hardship Fund which was to be spent on families who do not receive support from other agencies and are disproportionately disadvantaged by the imprisonment of a family member.

Though utilising a fund to make purchases on behalf of families is not something Families Outside does on a day-to-day basis, the fund was an excellent opportunity to provide support for families in a very tangible way during the winter. The funds were spent in various ways to support families in need, from support with utility bill debts and food vouchers to household repairs and new furniture. The total spend was broken down into nine categories:

  • Beds and bedding
  • Carpets and flooring
  • Clothing
  • Utilities and heating
  • Food and toiletries
  • White goods
  • Furniture and household repairs
  • Travel and family contact

A report produced on the spending of the fund was written and submitted to the Scottish Government in April 2021. The report provided information on how the grant was spent in each local authority, as well as an overview across the whole of Scotland. Feedback from the families who received support from the fund is also highlighted.

Families Outside is proud to say that, having spent almost all of the £50,000 grant within 10 weeks, we supported 82 families via applications across twenty of the thirty-two local authorities in Scotland.

Families Outside covid 19 prison specific support and information available on their website (e.g visits, virtual visits, keeping in touch)


If you have a family member in prison and are looking for information or support, call 0800 254 0088.  Lines are open Monday to Friday from 9.00am – 5.00pm. If lines are busy, or you call outside of these hours, please leave a message, and Families Outside will call back as soon as they can.

Group Work and Peer Support

Tracey Burns, Group Work and Peer Support Manager

Telephone: 07384 469 640


Kerry Knox, Training Manager


Help, information, and support for families of prisoners | Families Outside