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Supporting children with parents in prison

More than 100,000 children and young people have a parent in prison right now. While many go on to lead positive and fulfilling lives, for others, the experience has severe and far-reaching consequences.

1 in 15 children experience the imprisonment of a parent during their time at school.

Why Support Children

Why support children and young people affected by imprisonment?

The imprisonment of a family member, particularly a parent, is recognised as an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE). Children of prisoners experience higher levels of social and economic disadvantage, increased risk of anti-social behaviour and an increased risk of mental health problems. Too often, they become caught in a cycle of intergenerational crime - two in three boys whose fathers serve time in prison go on to offend themselves.

The shame and stigma surrounding a parent’s imprisonment mean that many children are reluctant to open up about the situation with schools. Parental imprisonment impacts children’s attendance, behaviour, emotions, concentration in the classroom, and how they interact with other children. Yet teachers are often in the dark about which students are affected.

The prison population has never been higher and is expected to grow in the years ahead. That means more children and young people will face the challenges of parental imprisonment. But there is hope. Research suggests that supporting people in prison to build and maintain positive family relationships, where appropriate, can improve outcomes for parents and children. This work is what Pact does best.

Where are we now?

  • We support children to stay in touch with their parents in prison, making visits child-friendly and supporting families on their journey.
  • We deliver training and resources for schools to help tackle the stigma of parental imprisonment and encourage children and young people to access support.
  • We provide trauma-informed training for police officers that has been co-created with children and young people affected by arrests and home raids.
  • We provide print and online resources for children and young people to help them process events and emotions surrounding their loved one’s imprisonment.

Were are we heading?

  • We are developing a youth panel to amplify the voices of young people and ensure their concerns and ambitions are heard by those with the power to make change.
  • We plan to deliver more training to police officers to ensure children and young people witnessing the arrest of a parent are dealt with in a trauma-informed way.
  • We will be training more teachers across England and Wales, bringing them into prisons to experience what it is like for children visiting their parents and loved ones.
  • We are advocating for a ‘children’s rights’ approach to prison visits, ensuring prison teams consider children’s journey through the gate.

The Pact team has been a huge part in one of the most difficult times of our lives. While being very limited by prison processes, they have provided something for our children to still create some happy memories.

Family Member - HMP Moorland

What needs to change?

We are calling on an incoming Government to:

  • Publish annual data on the number of children affected
  • Create a ministerial position to develop a joined-up action plan across Government
  • Reduce, rather than increase, the prison population
  • Require mandatory training to ensure that police and magistrates understand the traumatic impact of witnessing the arrest of a parent in the family home

What can you do?

You can help us to ensure no child or young person faces the challenges of parental imprisonment alone.

  • Make a donation
  • Leave a gift in your will
  • Subscribe to regular email updates
Why Support Children (1)

My children and I have always felt comfortable and at ease when visiting,m and the family are always made to feel amazingly happy by Pact staff.

Family Member - HMP Swinfen Hall