Children of prisoners - maintaining family ties

Contexts - delivery frameworks

Local safeguarding children boards

“The local children safeguarding board is the key statutory mechanism for agreeing how the relevant organisations in each local area will co-operate to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in that locality, and for ensuring the effectiveness of what they do… .Whereas the children’s trust has a wider role in planning and delivery of services, their objectives are about coordinating and ensuring the effectiveness of what their member organisations do individually and together”. (6)

It is clear that children of prisoners require a coordinated response that involves developing the interface between and across a range of services and sectors. This is particularly the case for the criminal justice, social care and education sectors, and this report goes on to highlight examples where this level of cooperation has been achieved, albeit on a practice, rather than policy or strategic, level.

National Offender Management Service – the children and families pathway

“Children and families can play a significant role in supporting an offender to make and sustain changes which reduce re-offending. Many offenders’ relationships are broken or fragmented as a result of their offending and their families are left bewildered and unsupported, increasing the likelihood of intergenerational offending, mental health and financial problems”. (6)

The National Reducing Re-offending delivery plan is clear in the aim that children and families have a crucial role to play in reducing the risk of re-offending. To enable families to have this role and to enable them to visit prisons regularly, changes in the prison service will be required that move it towards a more child-centred and child-friendly reception. Several prisons have made these changes. However, the degree of change is dependent upon the individual prison governors. The result is inconsistency across prisons, which causes confusion for those visiting. If this policy was legislation rather than guidance there would be greater consistency across England and Wales.

As part of the pathway there are regional multi-agency ‘children, families and support network pathway boards’. These are composed of professionals from the statutory, voluntary and community sector who have a role to play in reducing re-offending. Some regions have had more success in developing this pathway than others. There is currently a pilot project underway in the West Midlands called Families Do Matter.