To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what support services are available in (a) Wales and (b) England for children aged under 16 who have had a parent sentenced to a period in custody.
The government is committed to ensuring that all children get the help and support they need to live happy and fulfilled lives. The individual circumstances and needs of every child with a parent in custody can be very different, as will the necessary support.
Where a parent is in prison, we are committed to strengthening family ties, which can have benefits both for reducing re-offending and, where contact is appropriate, for the welfare of children. To ensure that children can visit parents in prison, the Assisted Prison Visits Unit can provide financial assistance to families in Wales and England in receipt of certain benefits or on a low income. Additionally, the Ministry of Justice has a range of measures to help strengthen and maintain communication and engagement between prisoners and their families. These include facilitating family days alongside programmes to promote family engagement and parenting to aid an individual’s rehabilitation.
The Ministry of Justice, in partnership with Barnado’s, operates the National Information Centre on Children of Offenders website, which provides information for all professionals who come into contact with the children and families of offenders.
The needs of children with parents in prison are likely to be seen in the school environment. In England, the statutory guidance ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ is clear that school staff should consider the additional needs of children with parents in prison. The guidance highlights the fact that these children are at risk of poor outcomes including poverty, stigma, isolation and poor health. Education in Wales is a matter for the Welsh Government.
Many children of offenders will be disadvantaged and need support. Children’s services in Wales are a matter for the Welsh Government. In England, local authorities are best placed to identify, assess and respond to these needs: a child who has a parent in prison could receive early help from a range of agencies, or support from children’s social care if there are safeguarding or welfare concerns such that the local authority assesses that this is needed. The duties and procedures that individuals and agencies should follow are set out in the statutory guidance ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’.