A Cycle That Needs Addressing
There is no provision of family housing on release for mothers that are not in custody of their children. This issue causes a catch 22 situation because without suitable family accommodation it is much more difficult for the mothers to regain custody of their children.
- Two-thirds of women in prison are mothers who were living with their children before they went into prison.
- Every year over 17,000 children in England and Wales are separated from their mother by imprisonment.
- Only 9% will be cared for by their father in their mother’s absence. The rest are in the care of social services or family and friends.
- If a mother leaving prison no longer has care and custody of her children when she applies to her local authority as homeless, she is eligible for nothing larger than a room in a shared house or a one-bedroom property.
- If a mother only has a room or a one-bedroom property, she is denied the opportunity to regain custody of her children.
- Children are left ‘in limbo’ lodging with friends or family or in local authority care.
- Without support the children do less well in school, have three-times the risk of mental health problems and are more likely to become offenders.
- Their mothers gradually lose the initial confidence and commitment to turn their lives around that they set out with.
There are over 4,000 women in prisons in England and without support, 51% of them will reoffend within a year of release.
Women’s imprisonment has a harsher effect on the lives of their friends and families and most especially their children, whose lives can be devastated and whose lives too become chaotic. The cycle continues.—Baroness Corston, 2007
Children on the Edge: Children affected by maternal imprisonment
It is estimated that over 17,000 children are separated from their mothers by parental imprisonment and only 5% of these children will remain in their family home. The evidence to date suggests that children affected by maternal imprisonment are exposed to family breakup, financial hardship, stigma and secrecy – leading to adverse outcomes. Despite this, the long term impact and real consequences for children does not appear to be routinely considered in sentencing; and few studies have focused on children directly. This shortage of information could reflect the lack of community and government interest in this vulnerable group of children, leaving them ‘on the edge’ of society and national policy agendas.
Re-Unite have researched this area and written a report on the findings. This review is supported by interviews with a small cohort of children affected by maternal imprisonment in order to better understand their views, feelings and experiences of separation from their mothers through imprisonment. The recommendations come from a children’s rights perspective, and through theserecommendations it is intended that this social injustice will be corrected and these vulnerable children will be brought in from ‘the edge’ of government policies and local services through the development of an informed and co-ordinated range of child centred services and support to ensure positive outcomes.