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Innovative support at court project launched in Durham

durham courts picture

A ground breaking project providing befriending support to friends and families visiting courts has been launched at Durham Crown Court, thanks to a funding boost from Ron Hogg, Durham Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).

The Nepacs project, which started at Teesside Combined Courts in July 2013 thanks to funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, provides much-needed support and comfort to families who come to court to support a loved one facing a custodial sentence.

Nepacs has received £20,204 funding in total from the PCC - £15,624 to enable Nepacs staff and volunteers to develop the project at Durham Crown Court and a further £4,580 towards the provision of special visits for children and families of prisoners.

Support is offered to families attending court by a team of volunteers, under the leadership of Jane Leak, the Nepacs support at courts coordinator.

The volunteers are available within the courts offering listening support, information and continued support outside of court through a telephone befriending service. In its first year 93 individuals received long term support to help cope with the impact of imprisonment on their lives.

The project volunteers work closely with Nepacs’ prison visitor centre teams and family support workers to help reduce families and friends’ worries and anxieties about visiting prison.

Ron said: "Nepacs staff and volunteers provide an important service to families and individuals in an unfamiliar and formal setting which can be very daunting at such a difficult time. I am proud to be associated with this excellent project and I am delighted that so many more people will get the extra support they need."

Jane Leak, Nepacs support at courts coordinator, said: “We are delighted to have received this additional funding as it will enable us to develop the service at Durham Crown Court and offer support to even more families going through a very difficult time.

“Every year thousands of families experience court proceedings and the impact of a custodial sentence despite never having being involved in or committed a crime. From the moment of arrest and throughout the court process families are at risk of social isolation and stigma which can affect their emotional, physical, financial and social wellbeing.

“For those families who are unfamiliar with the judicial system or who are unprepared this can be a distressing time. Our dedicated team on the ground offer a listening ear, a helping hand and friendly support to help make things a little easier.

The team are always recruiting new volunteers who would be willing to give up a few hours of their time to support this worthwhile project.

Jane added: “We are looking for volunteers who may have travelled a similar journey, or have relevant skills or experience, and who can offer genuine understanding, empathy and emotional support. Volunteering with families and making a difference can be very rewarding and can also provide you with valuable training and experience.

If you are a family experiencing similar issues and would like to talk to someone please get in touch with the befriending team on 07774 385276.

If you are interested in volunteering with the Nepacs court project in Durham or Teesside please get in touch with Jane Leak at jleak@nepacs.co.uk or visit our website www.nepacs.co.uk to find out more.

To find out more about the work of Nepacs, including how you can get involved or make a donation please visit www.nepacs.co.uk or telephone 0191 375 7278.


For more information or to arrange an interview please contact Tina Young on 0191 332 3810 or 07903 818344.

Notes for Editors

  • Photo caption (left to right): Nepacs chief executive Helen Attewell, Jane Leak (support at courts co-ordinator), volunteer Sharon Jones and Ron Hogg
  • Nepacs is a long established north east charity which aims to support a positive future for prisoners and their families. We recognise that families of prisoners, and especially children, may become the hidden victims of crime when a relative is imprisoned.  Ministry of Justice figures tell us that prisoners are 39% less likely to reoffend if they have had visits throughout their prison sentence. That's a strong argument for keeping families together.


  • Staff and volunteers from Nepacs provide a number of services to support friends and families of prisoners, in seven prison and young offender establishments across the north east and within the community, including prison visitors' centres and tea bars, play sessions for prisoners' children and youth projects, integrated family support and support within the Teesside Combined courts and Durham Crown Court.   Nepacs welcomes over 130,000 visitors through our centres each year and nearly 20,000 children use NEPACS' play facilities at prisons in the north east each year.


  • The Nepacs courts project is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Esmée Fairbairn Foundation aims to improve the quality of life for people and communities throughout the UK both now and in the future. They do this by funding the charitable work of organisations with the ideas and ability to achieve positive change. The Foundation is one of the largest independent grant-makers in the UK.  They make grants of £30 - £35 million annually towards a wide range of work within the arts, education and learning, the environment and social change. They also operate a £26 million Finance Fund which invests in organisations that aim to deliver both a financial return and a social benefit. Find out more at www.esmeefairbairn.org.uk


  • The Nepacs court project is accredited with the APS (Approved Provider Standard), the national quality standard, which has been designed specifically for mentoring and befriending programmes. Find out more about the APS and the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation at www.mandbf.org  
Posted on Tuesday 12th May 2015
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