A CHARITY that helps the families of North-East prisoners is launching the region’s first prison visits transport service and is appealing for volunteer drivers.

NEPACS provides services such as visitor centres, tea rooms and court support to the families of prisoners at North East jails including Frankland, Holme House and Durham.

The charity is now launching a minibus service for visitors to two prisons, HMP Northumberland and HMYOI Deerbolt, and is looking for volunteer drivers in the Darlington, Durham and Tyne and Wear areas.

As two community transport partners are confirmed, CT Newcastle and Dene Valley Community Transport, volunteers will get the chance to undergo professional minibus training, along with other training opportunities from NEPACS.

Andrew Thorp, of NEPACS, said getting to prison could be really tough for families, especially those who have to navigate their way round public transport systems in an unfamiliar area.

He added: “Our work involves supporting families to visit their relative in prison and transport problems have always been a major barrier.

“We hope the new transport service will make it easier for families to visit their relative in prison and in doing so, help keep families together and reduce the chance of the prisoner reoffending on release.”

The minibus services will run from Newcastle to HMP Northumberland at Acklington and from Darlington to HMYOI Deerbolt at Barnard Castle.

HMP Northumberland’s service will run five return journeys a week and HMYOI Deerbolt will have three.

Once these services are running, a third weekly service will be added, from Teesside to HMP Northumberland, with more planned for 2015.

To apply to become a volunteer driver, or for more information, contact Mr Thorp on 07854-594012 or athorp@nepacs.co.uk