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Children and Families

Why focus on Children and Families…?

The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) has recognised that children and families of offenders are often an ‘invisible’ or ‘hidden’ group. As there is no standard collection of information about these families it is difficult to identify who they are and the type of support they need.

Families are a great resource for offenders and they often play a vital role in helping an individual move away from crime. However through no fault of their own, families often become the secondary victims of crime and historically they have received little attention or support from organisations within the Criminal Justice System.

The Children and Families Pathway aims to ensure interests of offenders’ children are addressed through:

  •       Maintaining family ties, where appropriate.
  •       Improving parenting.
  •       Developing better materials.
  •       Advice and guidance to families.
  •       Developing a family friendly focus in prisons and through visitor centres.

Current Issues

The research around the impact of imprisonment on children and families is limited due to the absence of any overall ‘ownership’ of the issue to date. Over 10 million children in the world have a parent in prison and Action for Prisoners Families estimates that in the United Kingdom approximately 200,000 children have a parent sent to prison each year. In Bristol it is estimated that 1300 children have a parent in prison.

During their time at school 7% of children experience their father’s imprisonment, with 59% of the male prison population and 66% of female prisoners, having a dependant child (Action for Prisoners Families: 2012).

The children of prisoners are 3 times more likely to take part in anti-social and delinquent behaviour. Imprisonment can result in reduced family income, home and school moves, disrupted relationships, stigma and decreased social support. Each year in the United Kingdom more children are affected by parental imprisonment than by divorce. It is estimated that 65% of boys who have a father in prison will go onto offend themselves. This research shows that offending can be catastrophic to families and children; who are also being punished along with their parent (Action for Prisoners Families: 2012).

Families and Desistance

Research on desistance from crime, suggests that positive family ties can have an encouraging effect on the rehabilitation of offenders. Prisoners who had not received visits whilst in prison were 39% more likely to re-offend, compared to those prisoners who had received visits from family members (Action for Prisoners Families: 2012). It is therefore important that the Probation Service and other organisations encourages positive family relationships and identify ways of supporting families in order to reduce re-offending.

In a small number of cases maintaining family ties may not be appropriate, possibly due to the risk of harm that an offender poses to the family. Safeguarding children and supporting victims should always be a priority in the work the Probation Service and other supportive organisations complete.

It is crucial to know about a family environment in order to understand how an offender’s behaviour affects the family dynamics. The Children and Families Pathway, focuses on providing early intervention and signposting families to local services.

By ensuring that the families of offenders are recieveing the support they require, they will be in a much stronger position to provide the reliable and consistent support an offender needs in order to make long lasting positive changes to their lives and refrain from future offending.

 If you would like too find out how and where to access organisations that provide support to children and families, please use the search functions on the side of this page.

 Alternatively, if you are an organisation who offers services and would like to be a member of this site, please contact us.