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Prisoners: Children

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN HL9636, tabled on 27 October 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to update the study by the Home Office Research Directorate Imprisoned Women and Mothers, published in 1997; and what assessment they have made of the finding in that report that only five per cent of female offenders’ children remain in the family home while their mother is in prison.

Answered on

10 November 2020

Although responsibility for the children of offenders sits with the Secretary of State for Education, we are actively committed to joined-up working across Government and, in our Female Offender Strategy 2018, encouraged a partnership-focused approach to addressing the needs of both imprisoned mothers and children affected by maternal imprisonment.

The Female Offender Strategy, published in June 2018, sets out our commitment to improving outcomes for women at all stages of the justice system, and this includes supporting those who have children. We know that female prisoners are more likely than male prisoners to be a primary carer and imprisoned mothers are more likely to be living with their children prior to custody – around 60% of women compared with about 45% of men in prison who have children.

We recognise that maternal imprisonment can have particularly detrimental impact on family life, and that children whose mothers are in prison are a vulnerable group and may need additional help to address both the short and long-term impacts that maternal imprisonment can have.

We have accepted the recommendations made in your secondary report on women, which demonstrated that supporting women to build and maintain health family ties is one of the many important factors to successful rehabilitation. We are making good progress with implementation of the Review and where needed we are working across Government to deliver the recommendations to their best effect. Going forward, we acknowledge the need for improved collection and transparency of data on primary carers in prison and their dependents in the community.

At the moment, information on a prisoner’s caring responsibilities and children living in the community is monitored locally by prison Governors/Directors to ensure the appropriate support can be provided to women and their families. On reception into custody, all prisoners are asked if they have any children living at home and what their ages are. Currently, this information is not captured in a way that can be centrally monitored, and we know that there are challenges around parents being reluctant to disclose this information due to fear of involvement from social services. However, we are considering how to monitor and publish this information.