Some of our member organisations have raised concerns about mothers who have been prosecuted by Educational Welfare because their children have not attended school. The circumstances for some of these mothers have been really hard, and they need help and support not prosecution and custody.
When a mother goes to prison, the impact on children is immense.
- Only 5% will remain in their family home
- 9% are cared for by their father in their mother’s absence
- 40% will be cared for by a grandparent or female relative
- 12% will go into the care
“Children affected by parental imprisonment are some of the most vulnerable; their voices go unheard and their needs frequently unmet ….. Sudden changes in their family circumstances are known to have an adverse effect on these children’s life chances.” (Barnardos Report, 2014).
A Case Study: Cambridge Women’s Resources Centre (CWRC)
Mum had seven children living in the family home, five in education and two over 18. All the children, in education had educational / special needs. She was in receipt of DLA for two of her children. Mum had been prosecuted twice in the space of 9 months for failing to get two children to school. She had also received a further caution whilst on her second order with CWRC, and it is possible that she may receive a caution for a third child. She was subject to the first benefit cap in 2016, meaning that overnight she had to pay all her rent as her benefit was stopped.
CWRC ensured that she was exempt from the benefit cap, alleviating the immediate financial crisis and stress on her. She engaged positively and she benefited from the social contact, building of relationships of trust and understanding – she was able to discuss educational issues relevant to her daughter who had been assessed as having dyslexia and was finding it difficult coping with school. During her first order she needed intensive access to resources and support and advocacy, her confidence grew and she became less introverted.
They were really surprised to see her back again on a second probation order. In need of advocacy and support, CWRC were concerned that she had faced her second prosecution with little or no adequate educational welfare support and they have now attended meetings with her and written to educational welfare about exploring the possible support options available to the family.
“I have tried my best to get the kids to school, they do have extra needs and I feel that this hasn’t been taken in to account. I’m not very assertive, I’m a single Mum with a large family and I am trying my best. If only I’d had some help earlier, with the kids getting the support they needed it didn’t need to come to this.” Mum
CWRC are increasingly concerned about the volume of educational welfare prosecutions, particularly those who are perhaps less articulate or unable to represent themselves. It seems that women are receiving a criminal record and incurring financial penalties when they have not gone out actively to commit a crime. The impact on personal confidence, self esteem and self worth is significant; prosecutions exacerbate feelings of shame and failure. CWRC currently have 6 women coming to the project following prosecution.
It is astonishing that someone in the education system could think that the answer to non-attendance is to imprison a mother, with devastating impact on that family and on other children within that family. If you are working with women who have similar experiences then please do get in touch with Rebecca.
See our report: Children on the Edge
Jackie Russell, Director or Women’s Breakout