Re-Unite worker Sue Payne attended this conference and here are some of the key issues that she brought away from the day:
Obtaining statistical information on children affected by parental imprisonment and providing care and support for these children and their carers.
The conference was to mark the launch of the new Care and Support act (Wales) April 2016, which for the first time will address the needs of children affected by parental imprisonment.
Multi agency protocols have been agreed to ensure that prison staff conducting the basic custody screening will record the existence of prisoner’s children and a referral will be made to the local authority for the prison. The prison’s local authority will then make a referral to the child’s local authority for an assessment of need and the provision of a package of support for the child and his/her carers.
They have also established protocols to record the data on children whose parents are in prison, as this currently isn’t collected and there are only estimates of the numbers of children affected.
However, there are no women’s prisons in Wales and as far as I am aware these protocols only apply to prisons within Wales. I can only hope that this approach rolls out across the UK in future.
Support for children and carers affected by parental imprisonment
Families Outside is an organisation in Scotland who provide support and advice to families and children of prisoners as well as informing and training professionals such as teachers how to support children of prisoners.
Barnardos Cymru also have delivered ‘Hidden sentence training’ and provide consultancy advise to agencies and families in the criminal justice system and have produced handbooks for children who use the prison visitors centres in Wales.
Women’s Pathfinders Cardiff launched in March 2015
The scheme operates in Cardiff Police station and provides diversionary interventions for women coming into the criminal justice system for their first offence (low level offences only). Women are provided with a comprehensive package of early intervention and support to address the underlying problems which led them to commit a criminal offence. If they comply with the support offered they don’t get a criminal record. The project has been successful in supporting women to remain outside the criminal justice system and is now being rolled out to 4 other areas in Wales and maybe in the future nationally.
Invisible Walls programme at HMP Parc, Bridgend, Wales
The Head of Family Interventions from Parc prison in Bridgend outlined their ‘Invisible Walls’ Programme where they have a range of activities to encourage contact between prisoners and their children through organising parents evenings, children’s showcase events, homework clubs and other activities which enable children to have a voice and for fathers (where appropriate) to be part of their child’s life.
Barnardo’s Cymru also provide families services and support at Parc prison visitors centre and group activities for children of prisoners to reduce feelings of isolation and give them a voice.
I left the conference feeling that the commitment of some professionals had put children affected by parental imprisonment on the political agenda in Wales and through legislation, partnership working and innovative programmes were starting to address these children’s needs.