On 26 May 2016 Birth Companions launched The Birth Charter for women in prisons in England and Wales.
Birth Companions has supported pregnant women and new mothers in prison for twenty years. Drawing on this experience, they have developed The Birth Charter in consultation with their service users and with guidance from the Royal College of Midwives and UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative.
The Birth Charter is a set of comprehensive recommendations for Government and the Prison Service on improving care for the 600 pregnant women and 100 new mothers held in prisons in England and Wales each year.
Naomi Delap, Director of Birth Companions, says:
“Many pregnant women and new mothers in prison are incredibly vulnerable, yet despite several pieces of national and international legislation protecting their health and well-being, many do not get the care and support to which they are entitled. We have focused attention on the elements that have the biggest practical impact to ensure these women get the support they need, and are able to give their children the best possible start in life.”
Programme Director of UNICEF UK’s Baby Friendly Initiative, Sue Ashmore, says:
“To protect the rights and welfare of innocent babies born in prison, mothers must receive the same support with feeding and bonding as they would in the community. The Birth Charter gives a much-needed voice to pregnant women and new mothers in prison, helping to ensure that no baby is punished for being born in detention.”
The Birth Charter has been developed to help inform the Government’s review of the treatment of these vulnerable women and their babies, and to improve current practice across the Prison Service, on aspects ranging from antenatal care and birthing partners to breastfeeding, family visits and counselling. Alongside the Birth Charter, Birth Companions is calling on the Government to create a much-needed Prison Service Order to help the Prison Service provide consistent, humane care.
Copies of the Charter will be available from the Birth Companions website on the 26 May.
If you would like to receive a copy of the Birth Charter and find out how to back Birth Companion’s work to improve the care of pregnant women and new mothers in prison please register your interest here.
The Birth Charter is supported by Women in Prison, Agenda, Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative, Clinks.