Our volunteer telephone support service was created in 2019 as part of our ‘connecting families’ project. It was set up on a limited scale, to work alongside our other family services, helping relatives and friends with a loved one in prison overseas who might need the extra support. This service takes place through one-to one calls from our volunteers, giving more personal, flexible, and accessible emotional support for those who need it.

Over the past few months, we have been reflecting on the telephone support service to consider its success so far. We reached out to friends and relatives who had received our telephone support, as well as one of our long-term volunteers, to find out what impact this service had on those dealing with a loved one’s imprisonment. We are so grateful to everyone who has contributed, as the responses have been invaluable in our exploration of why the telephone support service is so important, and how we might work to make it even better. You can find some of our reflections below...

Our family support groups are one of our most important resources in supporting relatives and family members using our service. They allow people to access important information, talk in a stigma-free environment, have important conversations, share their experiences and be heard.

However, for many family and friends, our family support groups may feel intimidating or be challenging to attend for numerous reasons - struggles with additional stigma, poor health, carer responsibilities, low mobility, digital exclusion, and financial constraints can all contribute. These factors all result in family and friends dealing with difficult situations but unable to access some of our most vital support.

The telephone support service helps to provide a solution to this. Working alongside our support groups, the telephone support gives these family members a chance to be heard by experienced volunteers in a calm, friendly, non-judgmental way. The telephone helpline can be transformational for those who may struggle with large groups, having to work around fixed times, and having to deal with long journeys.

Family members described how the support helped them emotionally, telling us about how they “hadn’t laughed in a very long time” before the volunteer support. Others described how they felt that they could talk to volunteers and share their feelings for the first time with someone outside their own family since the imprisonment, finding that the support eased their isolation and anxiety.

“It’s so important knowing that I have someone to talk to. I have a daughter that I talk to about the situation but I don’t talk to anyone else so it’s really beneficial to have these calls.” - A family member

It is clear from this overwhelmingly positive feedback that the volunteer telephone support service has been successful in achieving its goal of providing key support for family members. While the number of family members using the service will remain limited, we hope to continue to provide the service and take on constructive feedback to continue to improve it.

The helpline is another key tool in the arsenal of our family support service, and one we are ever grateful to our volunteers and engaged family members and friends for helping us to continue to provide.

Creating a safe, non-judgemental space for shared experiences.

Prisoners Abroad helps family members affected by a loved one’s imprisonment by providing one to one support as well as hosting family support groups around the country and arranging overseas visits.

Can you help to support our life-saving work by donating today?