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Call 21 of Children in Scotland’s ‘25 Calls’ campaign is to invest in relationship-based whole family support rather than parenting programmes alone. What does this look like for families separated through imprisonment?
When someone goes to prison, the family faces a range of challenges including loss of income, unstable housing, lack of privacy, loss of social supports, victimisation and stigma, worsened physical and mental health, and potentially disrupted schooling, to name a few. Maintaining contact with the person in prison can be very challenging, with cost and distance causing nearly half of people in prison to lose contact with their families. But keeping this contact going is exceptionally important (when this does not put the family in danger), both because it is the child’s right, and because positive family contact actively reduces the risk of further offending.
Support with travel to prison visits
Families in receipt of certain state benefits are eligible for financial support for travel for up to two prison visits per month from the UK Assisted Prison Visits scheme. Families on low incomes, for example in low-paid jobs, are not eligible, and travel costs for those far from the prison their family member is in can face considerable costs. This call is therefore to:
Protection of rights of children of prisoners
Children of prisoners have the same rights as any other child in Scotland. However, these rights are easily overlooked. Families Outside therefore calls on government to:
Support for families where continued contact is not in their best interest
Not all families wish to maintain contact with the person in prison, nor is it always in their best interest to do so (for example in violent or coercive relationships). Equally not all families will be a positive influence on the person coming out of prison. People in this position are likely to need support to make and sustain a decision to separate. Families Outside would therefore like agencies to:
Support for professionals
The impact of imprisonment on families is a hidden issue, with key professionals often unaware of it and unsure of how to support families in this situation. In order for families to be better supported, Families Outside calls for agencies to
Families Outside is a national Scottish charity that works specifically to support children and families affected by imprisonment. It does this through provision of direct practical and emotional support; training of key professionals; and development of policy and practice. Through this it has identified a number of practical ways to support families affected by imprisonment.
Other articles published in our December 2018 newsletter