Children of prisoners - maintaining family ties

Appendix 3: Halton Borough

SCIE approached Halton Borough for this survey as they had responded positively to the questionnaire for local safeguarding children boards. They indicated that this is an area in which they are keen to progress, and that they are looking at ways to identify and monitor for children of prisoners who require support (not necessarily from statutory services).


There was much discussion about the lack of a national strategy, and that this is not an issue with easy answers. Clearly not every child affected will be a child in need, although it was felt that the circumstances of having a parent in prison would add a degree of vulnerability and make the child a ‘special case’. As such, services would still need to be aware of the child and if they did not fit criteria as a child in need, it would still be worth looking at what other support could be provided.

Other issues discussed included:


There is no current funding stream for this work.

Policies and procedures

It would be difficult to establish what criteria you could put in place to determine the need for multi-agency input, and difficult to identify one agency that would have overall responsibility. Someone needs to make the call. It was suggested that the police could notify someone as they are involved at the time of arrest and should be aware of the presence of children, but there was no agreement as to whom. For adults who are sentenced to over 12 months, probation could take responsibility, but it is not clear if they could take on that role with everyone. This led on to discussion as to whether the court should take some responsibility, at least for asking relevant questions and notifying probation.

It was felt that the common assessment framework would be a useful framework to undertake assessments, and a system developed around that might work. Alternatively, it should be covered by an ‘absent parent’ policy, or an ‘unaccompanied children’ policy. Another option is making sure information is available for the family as soon as possible, and utilising the resources that are already available.

The concern with this is that parents may not give the information as they are scared of potential consequences, such as children ending up in care. So the overriding concern for the group is determining who has responsibility for alerting services when a child is left in an unsafe situation, such as someone unsuitable being left to look after the children.


At the time of the discussion, there were no partnerships exclusively for this work, but the local safeguarding children’s board would be informed about this focus group with a view to considering what action could be taken.


Training for professionals in relation to identifying private fostering arrangements has been done and there has been a public awareness-raising campaign.


At present there are no dedicated services for children of prisoners although there are links and small pockets of work being carried out in universal services. The remit of the local safeguarding children’s board has been expanded as this is one area to be explored.

Links with prisons

Not explored in the session.


It is hoped that this strand of work can be successfully developed locally.

Challenges and obstacles

Publicity and awareness-raising is key, not just for families but for a range of professionals. This includes children’s services, health, education, probation and prisons. There is a need to be realistic about what can be achieved. Knowing the numbers would help, if nothing else, to allay fears that services might be overwhelmed by new referrals.

Lessons for practice