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Neglect must stop for children of prisoners

Release Date: 19 Oct 2009

Barnardo's is calling for more support for children of prisoners – one of the most vulnerable groups of children in the country.

An audit of children’s plans across the UK found of the 208, 188 - more than 90 per cent - had made no reference to them.

This is despite a Government directive for local authorities to consider the needs of these children in their planning and those children being around three times more likely to be at risk of developing antisocial behaviour or mental health problems. They are also more likely to be living in poverty.

Barnardo’s director of policy and research Ms Julian Walker said: “We cannot continue to neglect the needs of these children when there is so much we can do.

"The consequences of failure to address their needs will rebound on the children themselves and on society as a whole.

"Almost two thirds of boys with a convicted father go on to offend if we do not intervene.

"Barnardo’s has services across the UK which help children to overcome the difficulties they face when mum or dad is sent to prison.

"We know from experience that the harmful effects on a child of losing a parent in this way can be buffered and the damaging cycle can be broken."

There are an estimated 160,000 children in the UK who have a parent in prison; more than twice the number of children in care and six times the number of children on the child protection register.

A lack of official records means this number may be even higher.

The Barnardo’s audit, published today in the children’s charity’s latest publication Every Night You Cry, found that:

  • in England just 13 of 150 children and young people’s plans refer to children of prisoners as a vulnerable group and just five of those outline a strategy to address their needs
  • in Wales, two out of 22 children and young people’s plans specifically mentioned children of prisoners
  • in Scotland, four of 32 integrated children’s services plans specifically mention children of prisoners
  • in Northern Ireland just one of the four Health and Social Services Board plans mentions children of prisoners.

Barnardo’s is calling for a systematic collection of data on the children of prisoners, courts to have more information about the impact on the children of a defendant of any sentence made and guidance to ensure the needs of these children are specifically addressed in children’s plans.

Download the 'Every Night you Cry: The realities of having a parent in prison' report (PDF, 752KB).

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