In this


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.

The SPS have a Family Strategy for 2017- 2022 for working with individuals with in our care as well as supporting their families and wider social network. The Family Strategy sets out how SPS will review, develop and deliver national and local policies and procedures relating to the care of children, young people and families who have a family member in prison based upon the following guiding principles:

  • Family members are treated with fairness, dignity and respect;
  • Families are included in their relatives’ rehabilitation wherever possible;
  • Every family is unique;
  • The best interests of children are central to all decision making; and
  • Effective partnership working is key to achieving successful outcomes.

There are various ways of keeping in touch with a family member in custody.  You may write, visit and use the “email a prisoner” scheme.

Children’s Visits Policy

Children’s Visits are available in addition to prisoner’s statutory visiting rights and provide an opportunity for a parent to interact with their child and spend time together in a relaxed environment. Where positive relationships exist (or the potential to build them) each establishment needs to take steps that will help enable families to sustain and improve their relationships.

 Children’s Visits Criteria

 The factors detailed below are intended as a guide and each application should be considered on its own merits:

  •  Any parent who is allowed to have access to their child will normally be able to apply for a Children’s Visit;
  • The child must be aged 17 or under;
  • The prisoner requesting the visit must be the parent, step-parent, kinship care of the child or have, or have had, the responsibility for the care and custody of the child. Head of Operations may ask for evidence to support statements made in the application regarding the prisoner’s relationship to the child.Applications may be considered where such a relationship has not been established, however there should be compelling grounds for allowing such visits; and
  • Confirmation that there are no child protection/welfare concerns or issues.

 Any exceptions to the normal criteria should be considered by Head of Operations on an individual basis.

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.