Ormiston Families ‘Breaking Barriers’ Project – Case Study

Ormiston Families supports families to become resilient, giving children the best possible start in life. They help families to break negative cycles through a range of support. The organisation was awarded a grant from the Suffolk Police & Crime Commissioner’s Fund towards the Breaking Barriers project, which supports children and young people, providing a safe, non-judgmental place for them to talk about and process the imprisonment of a parent and the impact this had on their lives.  

Each year, Ormiston Families supports an average of 20 children in Suffolk with a parent or significant carer in prison. These children are often confused and angry, unable to deal with the sudden changes in their lives. As a result, many exhibit challenging behaviour, both at home and school, which if not addressed can spiral out of control, leading to issues affecting their mental health and wellbeing.  

The senior practitioner offers one-to-one tailored support sessions, delivered at school or in a similar safe place, providing the chance for a child to process the different emotions they are dealing with. They provide support for each child and their family, facilitating contact with the imprisoned parent where appropriate and supporting the child to understand what life is like in prison.  

Each child is supported to set three or more achievable goals, based around their behaviour at school, their emotions and their understanding of prison. The practitioner supports the child to talk through how they are feeling, providing them with the tools and techniques to help them to come to terms with the sudden changes in their lives.  

When a parent or close family member is imprisoned, children have so many different emotions including feelings of loss, shame, fear, anxiety, worry, anger, sadness or relief. These children don’t have anyone who can help them process the upheaval and resulting emotions which often come to the surface during school or at home, causing disruption and adding to their sense of hopelessness.  

We are grateful to the Suffolk Community Foundation who’s support of Breaking Barriers has ensured these children are not alone in dealing with their trauma and has had a demonstrable long-term, positive impact on their wellbeing and life chances. The children who engage with Breaking Barriers receive the space and time they need to process, explore and understand their emotions. With compassion and creativity, they are able to express their feelings in ways that are safe for them and others and have confidence they can regulate their emotions in the future. We see significant improvement of emotional wellbeing and resilience of all the children that come through Breaking Barriers.

Lucy Adams

Service Manager, Breaking Barriers Project