These are certainly challenging times for all of us and each of us is being affected in different ways by the coronavirus.

As you know, we support people in difficult circumstances all around the world and our work is already being significantly affected – we can only expect this to continue in the coming weeks and months.

We want to take this opportunity to reassure you that at this time of crisis and uncertainty, although the challenges are great, we are working hard to maintain our services to those who need them. Our Prisoner and Family Support Service is continuing to provide information and advice, process grants so that people can eat and they are dealing with the worries and concerns of families.  Our most vulnerable service users have become so much more vulnerable under the present pandemic.  We are determined to continue doing everything we can to look after those who need our help and support – indeed, they have no one else.

Our Resettlement Service is supporting service users remotely and ensuring they are supported through the next few difficult months. To comply with government regulations on social distancing and home working, our face-to-face assistance, usually delivered from our resettlement unit, has been suspended. As a result, we have adapted our working practices and are:

• Delivering our vital grants for food, water, basic necessities and housing remotely, to prevent destitution and homelessness at a time when being on the streets could be even more hazardous than usual

• Using phone and email to contact service users from home, alongside encouraging enrolment in the online forum

• Delivering work preparation support by email and telephone, to help those who have been back longer continue to develop their skills

• Working closely with our partners, to provide wrap around support at this challenging time

Throughout, an important element of our current role is to maintain morale for this vulnerable group. The Covid-19 crisis is a stressful time for all individuals, households and families but for those who have recently returned from a sentence it adds to their sense of confusion, isolation and anxiety. Our Resettlement Officers are addressing this through regular communication with returnees, through which they can offer reassurance and advice.

You are part of a community of people who are loyal and determined supporters of Prisoners Abroad – this includes our volunteers, staff, trustees and partners.  Together we have created an organisation that supports people when they are most in need and I wanted to reassure you that now is no different.  We will continue to do everything we can to support those who are suffering in prison conditions that are already harsh; families who are already struggling with the isolation caused by stigma; and those who have returned to the UK homeless and destitute and who are trying to resettle at a time when everything is closing down and services are overwhelmed.

We have been contacted by people who have asked how they can help – probably the best way to do this is to donate or if you already do, please keep donating.  We really do need you to stand by us in these unprecedented times.

If you too are serving in the front line to help our society’s most vulnerable – a heartfelt thank you from all of us.  We all have our part to play.