At the Visitors’ Centre you will find dedicated and caring staff which are mainly made up of 10 volunteers. The Centre is managed by Pact who provide a Visitors’ Centre Co-ordinator, a support worker and two tea bar assistants alongside a team of sessional workers.
The volunteer team is made up of individuals from all different ages, they may be retired or are students looking for experience in volunteering, they may be social workers or from many other backgrounds. They have a wealth of experience between them all and they provide a friendly face, non-judgemental attitude and they provide help, advice and support to our visitors.
The support workers at Featherstone provide an invaluable service; they are a regular familiar face, ‘listening ear’ and source of support and advice. They book in families to go on their visits, give information about visits, ID requirements, how to book a visit, items they can take on a visit, information about transport/travel Information and about prison (what they are allowed to take on visits) monies, (£20) ID and key for locker. All first time visitors are given one to one time in which the staff explain the whole process, put them at ease and talk them through the process of going on a visit. They also have the opportunity to ask any questions they may have.
Within the centre we have an information corner providing information on a range of services to support the visitors. These include debt advice, children’s services, housing, substance misuse, health and wellbeing, these are signposted through leaflets, literature, poster, IT, Support, and staff distribute up to date prison information as and when required.
Support staff are also given access to Pact and prison specific training. These include Hidden Sentence and CAPI.
Pact operates both the tea bar in the visitors centre and in the visits hall. Often visitors travel a long way to their visit and are in need of a cup of tea and bite to eat before their visit.
The visits centre tea bar provides hot and cold food and drinks. All the staff are food hygiene trained by South Staffordshire council. They maintain high standards of cleanliness and record keeping this includes temperature checking and cleaning schedules.
We are very proud to say that for a number of years we have achieved and maintained a five star rating from Staffordshire County Council. The tea bar workers also engage in fundraising for events such as hampers at Easter and Christmas. The money raised from these is then spent in the centre so all money goes back into helping the visitors.
Over this year we have worked with the inclusion team within the prison which offer support on drug and alcohol related issues. The team come over to the centre once a month. They have a noticeboard within the centre which they regularly update and display the next date in which they are in the centre on. The visitors can talk to the team in confidence about any issues they have or any concerns they have about their loved one in prison.
The visitors centre has both indoor and outdoor children’s play areas. The indoor play area contains age appropriate toys, games and activities engaging children of all ages and cultural backgrounds.
The prison play areas provide children with a nurturing, safe and relaxing environment. It allows them to access emotional and practical support through play. This is vital for the children as they can talk openly to the children’s workers and play alongside children who are going through the same journey as themselves. Children need the right level of support to reduce the stress which is associated with parental imprisonment.
In the indoor play room we provide for 0-18 years old. Children are able to choose an activity they would like to take part in which is age related and planned in advance by the play worker. Making crafts, being able to send pictures and paintings over to their relative in prison all helps to make their visit a more positive experience and strengthen family bonds. Activities are planned and centred around a Theme which have included The Seasons, Pirates and Mermaids, Family, Harvest Time, Halloween, and Being Summer Safe. Festivals and celebrations are also included in the activities, such as Diwali, Eid, Christmas, St Patrick’s Day, Easter, St George’s Day etc., alongside Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Grandparent’s Day. Alongside the craft activities there are also board games to play, small world play, construction toys, puzzles and colouring sheets, and a home corner.
We decorate the play area with the children’s masterpieces this gives them a sense of pride and helps raise their self-esteem. We also ensure that older children who are ‘too cool’ for crafts are catered for by having a PlayStation and football table as well as books and magazines.
The support doesn’t stop at the play activities, many parents approach the play workers and support staff for advice on which is the best way to tell children about parental imprisonment. We have a range of books which can be used to tell children about their father in prison. These books can be an important ice breaker to begin a difficult conversation.Parents often stay strong for their children and they need a ‘listening ear’ in times of difficulty.
The mothers often support each other whilst their children play and in turn they develop their own support group.
We have also introduced a free children’s library, children can choose a book to take away with them and bring back on their next visit in exchange for another one.