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Prisoners: Children

Question for Department for Education

UIN 49998, tabled on 15 September 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what support his Department provides for the children of parents and guardians who enter the prison system.

Answered on

22 September 2021

Statutory guidance on 'Working together to safeguard children' is clear that anyone who has concerns about a child’s welfare should make a referral to local authority children’s social care. Further information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/working-together-to-safeguard-children--2.

The local authority and its social workers have specific roles and responsibilities to lead statutory assessments. Every assessment should reflect children’s needs within their family and community context, including taking account of a parent being in prison. These children’s circumstances vary considerably and therefore local agencies are best placed to determine what support is needed – whether early help, statutory social care services, or support for other needs such as mental health.

We recognise the impact that a parent going to prison can have on a child’s learning, behaviour, mental health and wellbeing. Support should be based on the needs of individual children, not solely the characteristic of having a parent in prison and, as such, our approach is focussed on equipping schools to respond to these needs.

Statutory guidance for schools, 'Keeping children safe in education', is clear that staff should consider the additional needs of children with a family member in prison or who are affected by parental offending. The guidance highlights the risk of poor outcomes including poverty, stigma, isolation and poor mental health, and can be accessed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/keeping-children-safe-in-education--2. It signposts staff to the National information centre on children of offenders website, which provides specialist advice and resources to support professionals working with offenders’ children and their families, to help mitigate negative consequences for those children. This can be accessed here: https://www.nicco.org.uk/.