What is AFFECT?
We are a non-judgmental organisation that supports the families and friends of prisoners regardless of length of sentence or type of offence, from serious offending to those serving shorter sentences. We provide volunteer Telephone Support Workers, who are trained, DBS checked, and themselves supported either by structured peer to peer support or supervised in accordance with ethical and professional practice and standards. We are a registered charity with a Board of Trustees that looks after both our everyday business and on-going future development.
Why is AFFECT needed?
When a crime is committed the family and friends of offenders are often forgotten. As victims of crime themselves, they are left to manage a situation which is out of their control, but which has a great impact on their lives. Bereavement is usually experienced when dealing with the loss of a loved one to prison and is often compounded as family may be ostracized by neighbours and friends. Some of the feelings, emotions, ill health and behaviors experienced by family members can include; depression, panic attacks, agoraphobia, grief, sadness, fear, guilt, shame, anger, self blame (for not being the perfect parent, sibling, partner or friend) and self loathing which hooks into their low self esteem and poor self worth. Many can go on to develop unhealthy and unhelpful “coping mechanisms”, but with appropriate support they are able to find their own, healthy coping strategies. Additionally, for many, financial pressures can be overwhelming. Trying to find extra money for travelling to often difficult to reach prisons can be hard but more so when, for some, it comes at a time when their main family earner is the one being visited in that prison.
What does AFFECT do?
AFFECT is a national (UK) charity based in the South of England, which provides advice, information, support to families where a member has been accused or convicted of a criminal offence. This support can be at any point in the journey from arrest, court attendance, sentencing, prison visiting, and release. The charity was established in recognition that family members may be the hidden or forgotten victims.
Entry to the service is via an 0300 number, or the website, and through a single point of contact. Need is ascertained at this initial contact, with advice and information (written or verbal) provided. If ongoing support is required, then the person is allocated to a Telephone Support Worker (TSW).
Our Telephone Support Workers (TSWs) mainly provide regular telephone contact which is free, non-judgmental (most supporters have experience of the Criminal Justice System), and confidential. The TSWs have supervision every 6 weeks. In addition to the pamphlet, leaflets etc, (eg “Handling the Media”, “Attending Court”), AFFECT also produces its own Storybook, Newsletter, and ‘one-off’ publications.
AFFECT runs a facilitated ‘Group Gathering’ a number of times a year, which aims to provide a safe environment for mutual support.
We have participated in research with Criminology and Law Students from London School of Economics and we are mentioned in Rachel Condry’s book “Families Shamed, the consequences of crime for relatives of serious offenders” ISBN 978 – 1 – 84392 – 207 – 0. Published by Willan.
We also aim to provide information and continuously acquire new information in this constantly changing field. We are happy to give talks to any groups interested in what we do.