Our recent report ‘Children on the Edge: Children affected by maternal imprisonment‘ makes eleven recommendations that identify areas of development needed in the impact that maternal imprisonment has on children. We will be including a few of these in this and future ebulletins.
1. As part of a court report there should be a child impact statement which would assist judges and magistrates to assess and know the impact their decisions are likely to have on dependent children when a primary caregiver is sentenced. Judges and magistrates should be obliged to consider non-custodial sentences for offenders with primary care responsibilities and provide an explanation for their decision for imposing a custodial sentence.
Recommendation 1: Introduction of Child Impact statements and consideration of noncustodial sentences for primary caregivers.
2. Children affected by parental imprisonment are a poorly recognised, but nonetheless vulnerable, group. However, currently there is no systematic attempt to identify these children. Such uncertainty about a large group of vulnerable children means that services and support they could benefit from may not always be available. Without reliable figures, children of prisoners are not included in national or local planning. The Government needs to develop a policy and agree a process to identify prisoners’ children, so that effective and consistent support services can be planned and offered across the UK.
Recommendation 2: Identification of all children affected by parental imprisonment.
Liaison and Diversion (L&D) service working with the Children Affected by Parental Imprisonment project
Existing evidence suggests that children with parents in prison require extensive support. These children are twice as likely to experience mental health problems, and three times more likely to have a history of poor living conditions and contact with youth justice services. Early support can help. A new local partnership arrangement was developed between Barnardo’s ‘Children Affected by Parental Imprisonment’ project (CAPI) and the L&D service provided by the South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust. The CAPI scheme have given their thoughts on successes so far and the benefits of working with their local L&D team.
Bristol Charter for Children of Prisoners
Barnardos in partnership with Bristol City Council have published a charter for children of prisoners, to be used across criminal justice and wider services. The charter was developed by children aged 8 – 16 with a family member in prison. It outlines some recommendations for children in families affected by parental imprisonment and the multi-agency professionals who come into contact with them.