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Positive Play Partnership scoops top COSLA award

Published: 12 Oct 2016

A partnership between HMP Kilmarnock and East Ayrshire has scooped the top award at COSLA’s annual awards ceremony in Crieff for their innovative work with prisoners and their children.

The partnership involving the Council’s Vibrant Communities team and Serco, who manage the prison on behalf of the Scottish Prison Service, fought off stiff competition for the Chair’s Award, which is selected from all 200 shortlisted entries for all the other award categories. This award recognises the innovation, enthusiasm and motivation of the group as well as the strength and unique nature of the partnership. 

EA Positive Play is an integral part of the Early Intervention and Prevention Service provided by Vibrant Communities, reflecting their commitment to making East Ayrshire a strong, safe and vibrant community where everyone has a good quality of life and access to opportunities.

EA Positive Play works with children, families and whole communities using unique, asset based approaches. The project facilitates a range of community based services whilst focusing on delivery of more specific, targeted work with, and for the most vulnerable and isolated children and families - encouraging connections to natural community supports. 

The project also supports prisoners and their families by encouraging positive play, bonding and attachment. The Play in Prison initiative was set up in 2011 and aims to provide positive play experiences for prisoners, their children and families in the most natural environment possible.  Sessions are more akin to an after school club for example, than a regular prison visit. 

These sessions have proven to be an excellent incentive for good behaviour within the prison and assist imprisoned parents and carers in maintaining meaningful contact with their children, thereby reducing reoffending and improving outcomes for parent and child. 

Keith Mason, Serco’s Gymnasium and Health Improvement Manager at HMP Kilmarnock, and Strategic Lead and Chair of the Family Strategy Group, said: “This is a great testament to the fantastic work being undertaken by everyone involved in the Family Strategy Group, from East Ayrshire Vibrant Communities and HMP Kilmarnock.  There should also be recognition for the offenders who engage with the programmes and services developing family bonds and parenting skills. I am immensely proud to have represented all of them at the annual Convention of Scottish Local Authorities awards.”

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Councillor Douglas Reid joined representatives from Vibrant Communities at the prestigious awards celebration.   He said: “To say we are pleased to have won this award is a huge understatement. The COSLA Excellence Awards celebrate the very best in Scottish local government, with an emphasis on rewarding the most innovative and passionate developments, and on recognising projects that are changing lives in communities across the country. And EA Positive Play is leading the way.  This initiative is dynamic and innovative and is making a meaningful difference to people’s quality of life and the communities we live in.  We are delighted that EA Positive Play has received such prestigious national recognition in this award.”

Tammy Devlin, Team Leader for Play and Early Intervention and representative on the Family Strategy Group said:  “We are delighted to be working collaboratively with HMP Kilmarnock to deliver initiatives such as Play in Prison and Family Bookshare. The CoSLA awards represent the very best of local authority services and programmes and wider partnership working and it is amazing to see the joint work that we deliver for prisoners and their families being highlighted and held up as a model of excellence”.

In Scotland over 27,000 children are affected by the imprisonment of a parent and Play in Prison helps to maintain family ties and improve communications and relationships between parent and child during this time.  Evidence suggests that prisoners who maintain contact with their families are six times less likely to reoffend.

This project improves outcomes for the whole family and last year we supported between 6 and 12 prisoners through the facilitation of 37 weekly play and bonding sessions, 33 supported Saturday family visits - with over 360 child attendances.


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