A ‘Hidden Sentence’? Children affected by parental imprisonment

13 May 2014

Article written by Sian Thomas, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Image from Pixabay.  Licenced under the Creative Commons.

Image from Pixabay. Licensed under the Creative Commons.

Today sees the launch of the National Assembly for Wales Cross Party Group on Children Affected by Parental Imprisonment.  One of its main aims is to highlight the effects on, and particular needs of, children affected by parental imprisonment.

It is estimated that 200,000 children are affected by this issue in England and Wales. Barnardo’s Cymru say that there are no accurate figures specifically for Wales. They are calling for these statistics to be collected and made available. With regard to the numbers of children affected, the inaugural meeting of the Cross-Party Group was told for example that up to 2,000 children each month attend the visiting centre at Parc Prison in Bridgend.

There has been limited UK or Wales-wide research into the impact on prisoners’ children. The new Cross Party Group is aiming to bring together the range of issues experienced by children and families affected by parental imprisonment. Within the context of devolved powers, the group will also consider recommendations for the Welsh Government. Of specific interest is likely to be the role of education and schools in identifying and supporting children and families affected by parental imprisonment; the impact on children and families affected by Welsh women offenders who are imprisoned outside of Wales; and also the financial impact of a parent/carer being imprisoned.

Whilst the statistical data is limited, some further information can be found on the Information Hub on Offenders’ families with children for Professionals and the PACT Cymru website.

On 30 April 2014, Christine Chapman AM led a short debate titled ‘200,000 silent children? Considering the needs of children affected by parental imprisonment’ during which Vaughan Gething, Deputy Minister for Tackling Poverty, set out some of the actions the Welsh Government is taking in respect of this issue. Footage can be viewed on Senedd TV.

Cross-Party Groups may be set up by Assembly Members in respect of any subject area relevant to the Assembly. Many of the established Cross Party Groups examine issues which are relevant to children and young people and several have a specific focus on children: the Cross Party Group on Children; the Cross Party Group on Childhood Sexuality – Sexualisation and Equality; the Cross Party Group on Looked After Children; and the Cross Party Group on Violence against Women and Children.