FAMM Continues to Provide Debt Advice to People in Prison or Post-Release, and Their Families During the Pandemic

FAMM (Family and Money Matters) faced significant challenges in the wake of the first COVID-19 lockdown. Used to meeting our service users’ needs in face to face meetings, especially in prisons, we were faced with a quick channel shift. In the community FAMM continued to receive a steady stream of referrals from community-based sources and from internal NIACRO services with telephone, text and email becoming the default means of communication with service users. In contrast, unable to access prison sites since the March lockdown, we devised a self-help guide and questionnaire for people in custody to refer to, or to complete and return to project staff via Prison PDU staff, for direct support. Through this we continue to have a presence (though not physical) in prisons offering support to prisoners and guiding staff on how to respond to queries on landings.

We understand that these channels are not suitable for everyone but by innovating and experimenting we have endeavoured to ensure that we can reach need where it exists. We maintain contact with service users beyond the gate. By linking in with other NIACRO programmes we can keep positive engagement with a section of people that are otherwise hard to reach, helping them overcome a wide variety of barriers, not just financial stability issues.

The steady stream of information from the likes of Advice NI and the Money and Pensions Service, the variety of online training, the use of Zoom to participate in established forums have enabled us to continue to stay connected with developments in the sector and keep us fresh for the challenge ahead. By the end of September FAMM had received 151 referrals.

You can contact FAMM by emailing Donnchadh.Murphy@niacro.co.uk and Emma.Spence@niacro.co.uk