Family Lives and Action for Prisoners' Families form partnership to manage provision of support helpline

From August 1st 2014, Family Lives became responsible for the National Offenders' Families Helpline and website working in partnership with Action for Prisoners' Families.

The Freephone helpline, website and email service will continue to provide offenders' families with information and support, ranging from arranging prison visits to advice around issues such as coping with stress.  The helpline will empower families to manage the challenges they experience, gain access to sources of help, take their own informed decisions and take increased control of their lives.  The service will contribute towards improving family wellbeing, increasing prisoner contact with families, and ultimately reducing reoffending.

Family Lives Chief Executive Jeremy Todd said:

"From our joint experience, we know that there are many challenges when working with offenders families. Often they feel helpless and confused and may be very upset when they make contact. Families often see themselves as a source of support for their relatives and often want to advocate for them. Working together with Action for Prisoners' Families we will ensure that we draw on our collective resources and expertise to transform the lives of families by providing support, signposting and direction to parents and strengthening family relationships to ensure information and support is available to all families, especially those who are particularly vulnerable or facing disadvantage."

Deborah Cowley from Action for Prisoners' Families said:

"Our long established experience of working for the wellbeing of prisoners' families will enable us to address the challenges faced by prisoners' families.  Our new collaboration with Family Lives will enable us to hear the concerns of a wide range of families and feed this back to service providers all over England and Wales so that they can develop their services to take account of these concerns.  Working in unison will enable us to maximise prisoners’ and offenders’ families’ awareness of the helpline so they can access emotional support, as well as information that is clear and easily accessible."

The National Offenders’ Families Helpline is available via 0808 808 2003 and the website via    




Notes to editors:

For media enquiries contact Simon Walsh, Family Lives' Press & PR Manager via <

The Offenders Families Helpline will be open Monday - Friday, 9.00 am to 8.00 pm, and Sat-Sun from 10.00 am to 3.00 pm.  The website will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Families calling outside helpline hours will be provided with Family Lives' helpline - 0808 800 2222 - and relevant opening hours via the out of hours message. Emails will be responded to within three working days of receipt. 

The combined expertise and knowledge of APF's engagement with family members will be built on and enhanced through the infrastructure and expertise of the Family Lives helpline support to vulnerable families, many of whom are facing comparable challenges as offenders’ families. The majority of families supported by Family Lives are from the most vulnerable sectors of society; over 30% of callers to the free at the point of service Helpline have a household income of less than £15,000 (with over 46% having a household income less than £25,000) and over 59% are single parents. 

Family Lives has over 30 years of national helpline expertise, alongside the provision of additional online services. Family Lives also has a history of delivering direct services to prisoners and their families through educational and support programmes.  Their helpline receives over 120,000 calls each year, plus an email service supporting an additional 4475 users.  In addition, Family Lives delivers a family support programme to prisoners and their families from the Mount Prison, and has previously worked in Eastwood Park Women’s prison and HMP Durham and Low Newton. In addition, Family Lives supports families on a range of issues including mental health, finance, housing issues, and relationship challenges.  Family Lives and Action for Prisoners Families' approved call takers will:

  • Be aware of the context of the current criminal justice system and the offender’s journey from first arrest to prison
  • Increase their knowledge of information families may need about prison procedures, visiting orders, use of phones, etc.
  • Explore the impact of imprisonment on family members and society
  • Recognise specific issues for children with a family member in prison which may present barriers to them achieving outcomes
  • Identify the support needs of the family and how these can be met by statutory/voluntary provision and resources
  • Use listening skills to enable the caller to express and explore difficult feelings
  • Provide a consistent, non-judgemental response to all callers, regardless of how they present

Action for Prisoners' Families (APF) works for the benefit of prisoners' and offenders' families by representing the views of families and those who work with them, and by promoting effective work with families.  They provide expert knowledge on the needs of offenders’ families and best practice in providing support to offenders’ families, so this contract aligns perfectly with their business priorities. APF played a key role in setting up the Offenders’ Families Helpline (as the Prisoners’ Families Helpline). An independent evaluation of the service found extremely high levels of satisfaction with the service.   APF have in-depth, up to date understanding of the issues facing offender’s families, alongside extensive experience of supporting delivery of a helpline to this client group.  APF is an umbrella organisation with 2100 members across England and Wales. The membership network enables it to gather information about developments in grass roots service provision and local and national policy, which will in turn enable it to keep information for call takers up to date.