‘With a small team volunteers are key in the delivery of support services’

Posted on the 7th June 2022

At Children Heard and Seen (CHAS) we provide support and interventions for children with a parent in prison. The charity was set up in 2014, initially just based in Oxfordshire, with a focus on reducing intergenerational offending, and mitigating the impacts of parental imprisonment for children and young people.

CHAS is a very small team, and therefore volunteers are a key and valuable asset in the delivery of support services. The role of our volunteers varies, and every single volunteer understands the complexities a family will face when impacted with parental imprisonment. Nearly all volunteers are working directly with children and families. Roles include face to face mentoring, supporting residentials/activity days, online group work, online mentoring, admin and fundraising

The aim of our volunteers’ work

Our targeted support delivered by volunteers aims to:

  • Foster a greater sense of self, sense of purpose and sense of belonging, ensuring that children can believe that they can achieve and aren’t defined by their parent’s offence
  • Take a child-focused and strength-based approach that reminds children of positive influences
  • Recognise the complexity and breadth of lived experiences, as no two children are the same
  • Provide a safe space to discuss the absent parent. This may be a topic that a child feels they are not able to discuss with their family

The impact of the pandemic

The pandemic and the lockdowns introduced a range of obstacles to our volunteers’ ability to carry out their work. We introduced online support and mentoring to our existing families, whilst opening up to accept referrals to support families across the country. This shift towards and then increased focus on online services has meant that we are now a nationwide charity, with volunteers based all around the country.

Many of our volunteers now support us purely virtually, either through 1:1 mentoring sessions or group activity sessions on Zoom. These weekly sessions involve the child completing a first of its kind workbook, developed by CHAS, filled with guided exercises that cover each stage of the custodial sentence. This enables a child to gain a greater understanding of their situation, providing a framework in which to contextualise their fears and emotions.

The impact our volunteers make

With the dedicated support of our network of just over 30 volunteers, CHAS currently support over 250 family members; mitigating the harms of parental imprisonment for children, raising aspirations and combatting feelings of shame and isolation.

All volunteers are encouraged to join various events, and some recently attended awards ceremonies to celebrate the charities recent successes at both the Kids Count awards at the Houses of Parliament and the Violent Crime Prevention awards where CHAS were awarded the Positive Impact Award.

Thank you to all our volunteers!

If you’re interested in volunteering with CHAS, contact us at info@childrenheardandseen.co.uk or visit our website for more information.

Felix Tasker

Research and Administrative Assistant at Children Heard and Seen (CHAS)

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