Pact welcomes today’s announcement by the Ministry of Justice that there will be improvements to the care provided for pregnant women and mothers in prison.

The announcement, which promises greater dedicated support and more consistency in care for women before, during and after pregnancy, comes after a government review of Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) – specialist centres where female prisoners can live with children up to 18 months old.

Although there are legitimate questions around whether pregnant women should be given custodial sentences, and strong arguments against the current sentencing policy, we welcome this commitment from the Ministry of Justice to make improvements and any steps taken to reduce the risk of mothers or babies dying in custody. This is particularly important given the recent heartbreaking death of a baby at HMP Bronzefield, one of several tragedies that lie behind today’s announcement.

Pact exists to provide much-needed support to women and men in prison, and their families and children, and have long worked to offer one-to-one casework support through our Family Caseworkers in public sector prisons. We are now excited to share the news that we will be piloting prison-based social workers – to be employed by Pact but charitably funded – in two women’s prisons, HMP Eastwood Park and HMP Send, who will strengthen our capacity to build and maintain the family relationships that are so crucial to rehabilitation, and to support mothers and children facing both temporary and permanent separation.

Responding to today’s news, Andy Keen-Downs, Pact’s CEO, said, “Whilst we welcome today’s announcement of additional perinatal support for women in custody, we urge the Government to go further and to commission specialised social work practitioners in all women’s prisons, in accordance with Lord Farmer’s report, which was commissioned by the MoJ. We’re delighted to announce today that Pact will be establishing a groundbreaking charitably funded project in partnership with two women’s prisons to pioneer prison based social workers and we look forward to sharing our learning and practice with HM Prison and Probation Services and others.”

We are enormously grateful to The Sylvia Adams Charitable Trust for their kind generosity and enabling us to offer this innovative new approach to caring for mothers in custody.

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