Since Commonweal originally set up the Re-Unite programme in 2007, there have been many changes in policies and services impacting on women in the criminal justice system and their families. However, the programme has provided housing and services to enable many children to be re-united with their mothers following their release from prison, as well as provision of support to rebuild their lives.
The outcomes for the families who were supported through Re-Unite Approach were positive. The majority of Re-Unite mothers were able to access the support they needed not only to remain outside the criminal justice system but also provide a stable and nurturing home for their children.
The Re-Unite projects across England and Wales have highlighted many issues of concern such as, the increasing shortage of affordable social family accommodation, limited access to legal aid and legal support and the increasing numbers of mothers having their children permanently removed from their care and adopted.
Re-Unite, through undertaking a small study, has been able to identify an area of social injustice for children affected by maternal imprisonment and propose recommendations for national policy and service development. The report on this will be published shortly.
Sue Payne (Re-Unite Development Worker)