Visitors to Parc Prison near Bridgend will have a warm welcome thanks to a new café opened by charity volunteers.
Barnardo’s Cymru has opened the café at the G4S-run HMP Parc which will be run by members of Bridgend Soroptimists. Both professional visitors and prisoners’ relatives, some of whom have travelled long distances, will be able to get hot and cold drinks and snacks while they wait to enter the prison.
Around 400 visitors a day pass through the Susan Ellis Visitor Centre which has been run by the children’s charity Barnardo’s Cymru on behalf of G4S for some time.
The Barnardo’s team has an important role to play alongside prison staff in ensuring families have the right documents to enter the prison for a visit. Families have made positive comments about the experience of working with Barnardo’s staff who are easily identifiable in distinctive green tops.
G4S have built a conservatory onto the visitor centre and there are inside and outside play areas for the hundreds of children who visit each week. Barnardo’s Cymru in partnership with G4S have wanted to open a not-for-profit café for some time and now the offer of volunteers has made it a reality.
Bridgend Soroptimists have supported the visitors’ centre for some time and their latest donation of 1,200 will be spent on furnishing the conservatory and extra toys for the younger visitors. They previously donated #1,000 which funded poetry competitions and rhyme time sessions run by Barnardo’s to help dads in prison to interact with their children.
Among the volunteers are retired food technologist Eurwen Richards who said, “Since I’ve returned to live in Wales I’ve wanted to do some voluntary work and this is a great opportunity to do something for the community.”
Barnardo’s Cymru team manager Ceri Hill said, “Running the visitors’ centre is all about supporting families. Having a smiling ace and helping hand to greet them is important for the visitors and some people will really open up to our staff.”
Project worker Claire Williams said, “First-time visitors in particular are often anxious when they arrive and we try to help them relax. They may have travelled from as far away as London or Liverpool. They may have anxieties about how their relatives are doing in prison, so it will be good for them to be able to relax with a hot drink while they wait to visit.”
“We may also be able to signpost them to support within their communities, such as Barnardo’s Invisible Walls Accord, which works with schools and other agencies across South Wales to support pupils with parents in prison. The Big Lottery-funded Accord also helps bridge the community and prison divide.”
Around 500 children a week visit relatives at HMP Parc. In recent years Barnardo’s has worked with them on projects aimed at supporting families and keeping them together.