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SPS Policies

The SPS have developed a corporate approach to delivering holistic family support based on 4 key strands covering; 

  •         Families 
  •         Parenting 
  •         Children and young people 
  •         Child protection

Encouraging Family Contact Policy

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) recognises that children and families are hugely motivating factors that can influence behaviour change and is committed to working with families, community and voluntary sector partners in order to maintain meaningful family contact throughout a period of imprisonment. 

We want to strengthen the relationship between the SPS and families affected by imprisonment to ensure that both offender and family receive the best possible support during this difficult time.

We now have Standards for Encouraging Family Contact which details the minimum level of support that is now available in every establishment. These standards became operational on 1st April 2013 and include five key standards;


  • Access
    SPS will offer opportunities for children and families to maintain contact with their relatives. 
  • Communication
    SPS will provide information which is accessible and meets the needs of families. 
  • Participation
    SPS will actively encourage families to participate at key stages of a relative’s sentence. 
  • Respect
    SPS staff will treat every visitor as an individual, and with dignity and respect.
  • Safety
    SPS will ensure families visiting a relative in prison do so in a safe and pleasant environment.

Children’s Visits Policy

Children’s Visits (formerly known as Bonding Visits). Children’s Visits (or ‘bonding’) visits are additional to offenders’ statutory visiting entitlements and provide an opportunity for an offender in custody to interact and spend quality time with their young relative in a relaxed environment.

The SPS’s position is clear:

  • Presumed inclusion for all, having regard to any child protection issues; 
  • All children and young people under the age of 18 should be able to access these visits; and 
  • Offenders who can demonstrate an established relationship with a child/young person should be able to access these visits (this is to ensure that grandparents, step-parents etc. can access these visits).


Child Protection Policy

It is the responsibility of the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) to ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to protect from harm and abuse those children and young people who visit or make contact with a prison and with offenders. Child protection is the responsibility of all who interact with children and families, regardless of whether that work brings them into direct contact with children and young people. We have procedures which set out the the roles and responsibilities for staff, including non-SPS staff, working across the SPS estate. The policy has been brought into line with the Scottish Government’s National Guidance and applies to SPS and its private sector partners. It focuses on child protection in a SPS context, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities for staff and step-by-step guidance on the reporting procedure which must be followed. 

This policy is based on the following principles:

  •  that the welfare of the child or young person is always paramount; 
  •  that all suspicions and allegations of abuse must be taken seriously and responded to swiftly and appropriately; 
  •  that all staff will be; 
  •   able to recognise signs of potential abuse; 

  •   aware of their obligations to protect children and young people from harm and abuse; and 
  •   aware of the correct reporting procedures.

We have implemented our Child Protection Policy which is in line with the National Guidance on Child Protection in Scotland. Every establishment now has a Designated Child Protection Co-ordinator.

National Parenting Strategy Outcomes Policy

The Scottish Prison Service recognises that it has an active role to play in delivering parenting support to offenders in our care. 48% of offenders who participated in the SPS Prisoner Survey in 2011 said they were parents and the most recent information from analytical colleagues suggests around 17000 children are affected by parental imprisonment in Scotland.

Parenting Support across SPS should achieve the following outcomes:

  • parents play an active role in strong, stable families; 
  • parents gain a greater understanding of the value of being a parent and their role in the family unit; 
  • parents have positive aspirations for their children; 
  • parents gain a ‘toolbox of skills’ to allow them to develop positive relationships with their children; 
  • parents have the confidence to ask for, and engage with, support services without the fear of stigma; 
  • parents understand that maintaining positive relationships improves their child's health and wellbeing; and 
  • parents enhance their literacy and skills through contextualised learning i.e. in activities that are not solely classroom based and delivered by the education provider.

The SPS is committed to working with offenders, their families, the community and partners in order to encourage and maintain meaningful family contact throughout an offender’s time in custody. SPS is leading the development of a parenting and relationships programme for offenders, initially this will begin with young men at HM YOI Polmont. This programme will look at their own experience of being a child, their approach to relationships and being a parent, as well as the development of life skills and practical parenting skills. Barnardo’s are delivering this Parenting Programme with SPS staff.