Membership Spotlight – Families Outside

Every fortnight we highlight the work of our member organisations and outline how other individuals and NGOs can support them. This week we’re celebrating Families Outside being a member of Together for 10 years! We’re excited to share with you more about their current projects!

Tell us about the work of Families Outside?

Families Outside is the only national charity that works solely on behalf of children and families affected by imprisonment. We do this through direct support; training of key professionals; and development of policy and practice.

What projects are you currently working on?

So many!

We have recently had our training formally accredited, which is very pleasing. We are also working on implementation of the UNCRC and the recommendations from The Promise* as key policy priorities. This includes input to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s forthcoming Day of General Discussion in relation to children in alternative care.

We are making plans to celebrate our 30th anniversary this year and are working to refocus our work even more firmly on families, increasing ways they can access support and information and improving opportunities for engagement with peers.

We have just received funding from the Standard Life Foundation to conduct research and develop resources in relation to the financial impact of imprisonment, and we are about to engage in a piece of action research regarding Child Impact Assessments when a parent goes to prison.

*The work of the Independent Care Review culminated in the publication seven reports in February 2020, including ‘The Promise’ which set out what needs to change in the care system to ensure children and young people grow up loved, safe and respected.

How do you support children and families to learn about their rights?

We use varied opportunities such as annual the Children of Prisoners Europe’s (COPE) Not My Crime, Still My Sentence campaign to engage children and young people in activities that help them express and raise awareness of their experiences. Last year this involved an art competition of drawings that were made into postcards to send to MEPs.

COPE’s publication, ‘It’s Time to Act’, is another such input (a child-friendly version of the 2018 Council of Europe Recommendations regarding children with imprisoned parents) will shortly be available for distribution. Young people taking part in our group work made videos for the UNCRC’s 30th anniversary, highlighting selected articles from the UNCRC that had particular resonance for children with a close family member in prison.

How can children and young people make their views heard to influence your work?

Children and young people engage with us via our Regional Family Support Coordinators based throughout Scotland and / or via our group work based in Glasgow and Aberdeen (though currently reaching much wider through the online format introduced due to COVID-related restrictions).

We work closely with our partners at Vox Liminis to support the work of KIN, which is an arts collaborative of young people with experience of a close family member’s imprisonment and are looking forward to continuing this relationship.

Does Families Outside influence policy on issues affecting children and young people?

As members of Children of Prisoners Europe (COPE), Families Outside contributed to the development of the 2018 Council of Europe Recommendations regarding children with imprisoned parents. These recommendations outlined how the UNCRC applies to children separated from a parent through imprisonment and, also with our support, have been translated into a child-friendly version called ‘It’s Time to Act’.

We raised awareness of these recommendations at our Parliamentary Cross-Party Group on Children & Families Affected by Imprisonment, which included presentations from Juliet Harris from Together Scotland and Bruce Adamson, Children & Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland.

We co-chaired the Justice & Care workstream for the Independent Care Review and are now working with Together on implementation of the UNCRC following its incorporation into domestic law. During the pandemic, we have been working to ensure continued contact between children and their imprisoned parents, not least through the introduction of video visits as an addition to in-person contact.

What do you enjoy most about being a member of Together?

Together is an exceptionally well-informed network that ensures we are aware of proposals for legislative change and opportunities to provide input. We enjoy engaging with the Together team and member organisations to collaborate towards shared policy aims and to see the success of this. Together’s work directly supports ours, which is a tremendous help!

How can other organisations or individuals get involved or support your work?

We are happy to take referrals of families from any source and can provide training to help other organisations support families affected by imprisonment within their own remits. We are open to collaboration and have staff spread all over the country to facilitate this.

Also, take a look at our website to find out more about our work and how to get in touch!

And something a bit silly to end – if Families Outside was an animal what would it be and why?

The Chinese word for ‘penguin’ translates directly as ‘business goose’ – something that looks highly professional but is endearing and engaging at the same time. That seems like a good way to describe us!

A penguin with its wings spread against a snow background.
Photo by Pixabay on

To get your organisation featured in our Membership Spotlight contact Together’s Membership Outreach Assistant Isla on

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