The government must do more to help thousands of children whose lives are being disrupted because they have a parent in prison, Barnardo’s has said. The charity says not enough is being done to identify and support children with a parent in prison and is calling on government to create a national action plan.
It says the estimated 200,000 children in England and Wales who have a parent in prison face isolation, stigma, poverty and family breakdown, with the disruption contributing to a 65 per cent likelihood of them offending themselves.
However neither the government nor criminal justice services routinely record or ask about them.
Barnardo’s is calling for the Ministry of Justice to appoint a lead minister to have responsibility for children of prisoners to ensure they are identified from the point of sentencing or remand.
Courts in England and Wales would be statutorily obliged to ask about the children of people sent to prison and ensure that adequate child care arrangements are in place.
And it wants a national action plan for England to be developed for cross-departmental implementation by the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Education.
Javed Khan, chief executive of Barnardo’s, 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.
“They feel isolated and ashamed – unable to talk about their situation because they are scared of being bullied and judged.
“They are often left traumatised having witnessed their parent’s arrest and they can suddenly find themselves thrown into poverty and forced out of the place they call home.”
“We need to identify these children so that we can provide long-term support and break the intergenerational offending that currently sees 65 per cent of boys with a father in prison go on to offend.”
Last year Action for Prisoners’ Families and the Prison Advice & Care Trust (Pact) called for all prisons to have an independent children’s advocate and for the rights of offenders’ children to have a voice in government.