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Children affected by parental imprisonment

Children affected by parental imprisonment facts

It is estimated that:

  • 200,000 children are affected by parental imprisonment across England and Wales
  • 1,500 children are affected on any given day across Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland Prison Service)
  • 30,000 children face parental imprisonment every year in Scotland

No official record exists of children of prisoners as neither the courts, governments, nor local services ask routinely about them. They are unlikely to reveal themselves for fear of social stigma and bullying and so remain hidden from local services.

Children with a parent in prison are

  • Twice as likely to experience conduct and mental health problems, and less likely to do well at school.
  • Three times more likely to be involved in offending. Sixty five per cent of boys with a convicted father will go on to offend themselves.

Although the above figures are for England and Wales the trends are likely to be very similar for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

We also know that children with a parent in prison feel isolated and ashamed - unable to talk about their situation because they are scared of being bullied and judged.

These children are in left in the shadows, their needs are often forgotten with devastating impacts. Despite their situation, they are locked out of the support they need to give a better chance in life.

Barnardo’s new report for England and Wales ‘On the outside’ is calling on the Government to appoint a lead Minister to have responsibility for children of prisoners. The Minister would be responsible for making sure:

  • Children are identified from the point of sentencing or remand, with courts in England and Wales statutorily obliged to ask about the children of people sent to prison and ensuring that adequate child care arrangements are in place.
  • A National Action Plan for England is developed for cross-departmental implementation by the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Education.

Barnardo’s services

Barnardo’s has been highlighting the hidden impact of imprisonment on children and running a range of support services over the last 20 years across the UK. Our work in this area began with the Family Matters programme in Northern Ireland. This programme has worked across the four prisons for over 20 years with a range of parenting programmes aimed at maintaining contact and supporting parent/child relationships.

In England i-HOP (Information Hub on Offenders’ families with children for Professionals) is a one-stop information and advice service to support all professionals in working with children and families of offenders, including frontline staff, strategic managers and commissioners. Commissioned by the Department for Education, i-HOP is run by Barnardo's in partnership with POPS (Partners of Prisoners and Families Support Group).

Join our campaign to make sure children with a parent in prison are identified and then they receive the support they need.