Westminster Hall Debate, 12th June, 2018
This week Fiona Bruce MP called a debate on the Care of Prisoner’s children.
This week Fiona Bruce MP called a debate on the ‘Care of Prisoner’s children, asking:
Fiona Bruce successfully articulated the significant impact that parental imprisonment can have on children, particularly when a mother is incarcerated, including: disruption in housing and care giving arrangements, increased likelihood of poor emotional wellbeing, negative impact on educational attainment and increased likelihood of intergenerational offending.
The MP shared powerful examples of the impact of parental imprisonment, not only on the children affected, but also on those who are left to care for those children (often with no support):
“... emotionally, it’s terrible. It’s like they’ve changed so much, they’ve got behavioural problems. They weren’t like that before. Especially the little one who cries for his mum all the time.” (Grandmother caring for her daughter’s children)
There was acknowledgement from Michael Tomlinson MP that, given the multiple disadvantage faced by children of prisoners in all areas of their lives, this should be a cross departmental issue. Fiona Bruce agreed and stated: ‘it is important that Departments across Government pull together and that the machinery of government works holistically’.
Nadhim Zahawi (Minister for Children and Families) responded on behalf of the Government. He emphasised the importance of a multi-agency approach to supporting children and families of offenders, to ensure that children are identified effectively. He also highlighted the need to identify those children as early as possible by ensuring that courts are aware of whether an individual has children prior to sentencing and supported the ‘roll-out of training material developed by the academic expert, Dr Shona Minson, which raises awareness of the diverse implications of maternal imprisonment for children’. He also acknowledged the incredibly valuable role that kinship carers provide for many children of offenders and the need for those carers to receive appropriate support in the community. It was also heartening to hear Nadhim Zahawi make reference to NICCO which is signposted to in the recently revised ‘Keeping Children safe in education’ guidance:
‘… we have reflected on the importance of school staff considering the additional needs of children with parents in prison, so the guidance now highlights the fact that such children are at risk of achieving poor outcomes… and signposts staff to the National Information Centre on Children of Offenders website.’
Unfortunately, regular phone calls and emails to NICCO from professionals seeking support and guidance regarding work with children of offenders, demonstrate that, on the ground, targeted services in the community are scarce and knowledge about how to support the particular needs of these families is often limited. In addition, the significant impact of stigma and the resulting isolation that many families face, often prevents families from being able to ask for the support they need. Whilst it is fantastic that debates such as this are discussed, for those children and families who are affected, it is imperative that we continue to raise awareness about their needs and deliver services that enable families to access the support they require.
The full debate transcript can be accessed here.