Christmas is not a joyful time for everybody, especially teenagers who have a parent serving time in prison. Last year our gifts to PACT, an organisation which support prisoners' families, made a huge difference to these young people. Janice Walsh, Caledonian ward, appeals for your generous support again.
Last Christmas, your generous donations created some unexpected joy for more than 30 teenagers who have a parent in prison.
Some of these teenagers have spent several Christmases without a significant parent at home. Statistics demonstrate that children who live without the love of their complete family unit – and the financial support that was expected to provide – fail to thrive in a number of ways.
Financial donations at special times of the year may not change the bottom line of their disadvantaged lives, but the kindness of strangers gives them an element of joy and a knowledge that, as the child of a prisoner, they are not completely alienated from society.
It is easier to buy gifts for younger children – teddies and other toys are appealing – but as parents and family members know, it’s easy to “get it wrong” with teenagers, and to waste money and, sadly, kindness and effort.
In 2015, Islington South gave great gifts – vouchers for music, technology, clothes, hygiene and cosmetics. That would be fantastic for 2016. I can attest to the pleasure that these presents gave the teenagers, and also to the gratitude of the parents, who are generally struggling to manage the family and finances, frequently on a limited budget that is sorely stretched at festive times.
On most Wednesdays, I volunteer on the helpline (Freephone 0808 808 3444) at PACT, an organisation that supports prisoners’ families in a variety of ways. The situations families find themselves in causes them confusion and extreme distress, but we are sometimes able to give them information or to direct them to focused support.
On the first Wednesday of the month, I run a family group meeting at which people can talk in confidence to, and find support from, a group and staff who understand their distress and the circumstances that having a family member in prison creates. If you know of anyone who needs the kind of discreet and active support that PACT provides, please call the helpline to check the peer support groups. These families, the ones we know well, are the ones that will receive your kind gifts for their teenagers. Please dig as deep as you did last year – your donations and presents go to known and worthy kids.
If you would like to know more about PACT, visit the website, www.prisonadvice.org.uk, or get in touch with me through the Barnsbury Street office.