Yesterday, I opened the new family visitor centre in HMP Low Moss in Bishopbriggs.
It is the fourth new centre to have opened at a prison in Scotland this year and will allow the children and families of those in custody an opportunity to relax and play before visiting their loved ones, as well as providing support, information and impartial advice relating to housing, finance and travel issues, children and health matters.
The Scottish Government is supporting these new centres, and seven existing ones, with £1.8 million in grant funding over three years as we recognise the very real benefit they offer to families.
Being a parent is the most amazing experience, but it can also be one of the most challenging. These challenges are much greater for families living in difficult or adverse circumstances, not least those affected by imprisonment.
At a time when a child really needs additional support from non-imprisoned family members, those family members may themselves be physically, emotionally and mentally unable to offer extra support.
The children of imprisoned parents are often described as the forgotten victims of parental incarceration. Loss of income, loss of housing, shame, stigmatism, relationship breakdowns, victimisation and an array of negative impacts on children are all prevalent side effects.
Evidence tells us that by the age of 5, children from less advantaged circumstances are between 11 and 18 months behind in their vocabulary skills and between 6 and 16 months behind in their problem solving abilities than children from more advantaged circumstances. The impact of this disadvantage can be seen throughout a child’s life into adulthood.
Our vision for our children and young people is a simple but ambitious one – we want Scotland to be the best place in the world for children and young people to grow up. Ensuring that all of our children get the best possible start in life is key to us achieving that ambition.
I am encouraged and excited about how, on a national level, we are making the links between children and families, health and justice – by working collaboratively and delivering programmes like this one in Low Moss and across other prisons in Scotland.