The government must take action to identify the number of children with parents in prison and ensure that appropriate specialist support is put in place for those that need it, a leading children’s charity has said.
Barnardo’s said that children of prisoners – who it’s estimated number 200,000 in England and Wales – can face isolation, stigma, poverty and family breakdown, and are twice as likely to experience mental health problems and three times as likely to offend than other children. But at present, no official record of them exists, because neither the courts, government, nor local services ask routinely about them.
Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said, “Children with a parent in prison have done nothing wrong, yet they can be left feeling like they’re serving a sentence themselves – they are the innocent victims.”
The charity’s On the Outside report calls for a national action plan to be developed with the aim of raising awareness and setting up training to ensure that statutory services are aware of children’s identities and can deliver multi-agency care and assistance at a local level.
“We need to identify these children so that we can provide long term support and break the intergenerational offending that currently sees 65% of boys with a father in prison go on to offend,” Khan added.
“Courts must have a statutory duty to ask whether individuals remanded or sentenced to prison in England and Wales have children. We will only achieve fundamental change if there is someone within the Government to champion the cause for these children, so we are asking the Justice Secretary to appoint a lead minister for this group.”