North Wales Families Affected by Imprisonment (FABI) Programme
It is believed that significant numbers of North Wales’ children and families are affected by imprisonment. However, very often, their unique vulnerabilities and challenges are overlooked or hidden, and they end up serving a so-called ‘hidden sentence’ themselves.
How Does Having a Family Member in Prison Affect Children and Families?
Compared to their peers, children face significant pressures and emotional upheaval during the period of a family member’s imprisonment and have a greater likelihood of a range of poor outcomes, and of facing impoverished and damaging lives.
Intergenerational offending is a big problem: a landmark study found that 65% of boys who had a father in custody go on to offend themselves. The imprisonment of a mother also has lasting consequences for children and only 5% of children with a mother in prison remain in their own home. The Prison Reform Trust has recently produced a report: “What About Me?” about the impact on children when mothers are involved in the criminal justice system.
Significantly, all of North Wales’ women in custody are held in England.
Families, generally, are more likely to experience poverty and debt and feel stigmatised in their communities; the children tend to feel more isolated in schools. This also affects children and families who have a parent or family member involved elsewhere in the criminal justice system, not just in prison.
Children with a parent in prison:
- are twice as likely to experience conduct and mental health problems;
- are less likely to do well at school and more likely to be excluded;
- are three times more likely to be a perpetrator or victim of domestic violence; and
- are four times more likely to become dependent on drugs.
This cohort has been identified as one of the vulnerable groups targeted by Organised Criminal Gangs through ‘County Lines’. Officers in the Violence and Vulnerability Unit (which is supported by the Home Office) have highlighted this threat in an article for the September 2018 edition of the FABI Newsletter.
The FABI Project – A Multi-Agency Approach
In order to raise awareness of the issues faced by these North Wales families and to drive change to encourage prevention work and more targeted non-stigmatising support, eleven public bodies from across the region (including the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and North Wales Police) and HMP Berwyn, have appointed a small regional cross-cutting team; this is part of the work of the North Wales Safer Communities Board and the North Wales Substance Misuse Area Planning Board.
There are two officers within the team, namely Sara Kettle and Catherine Pritchard, who are working collaboratively with partners. A multi-agency Programme Steering Group of 30 members has been established to drive their work including North Wales Local Authorities, Health, Police, Probation, the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Support Hub, HMP Berwyn and HMP Styal, youth justice, the third sector and HMPPS in Wales. If you wish to contact Sara or Catherine about their work and can support and inform it going forward, please contact them on:
Maybe you collate figures on the numbers of children or families from North Wales affected by this issue? Or you have a specific understanding of their needs through the work that you do day-to-day?
Perhaps you provide support to families affected by imprisonment or would like to understand more about the issues so that you can in the future? If so, they’d like to hear from you.
A Families Affected by Imprisonment (FABI) Newsletter is produced quarterly. The last three can be accessed here
There are 7 outcomes for the project during its first year. Namely:
- Improved understanding of the current situation faced by children and families affected by imprisonment in North Wales.
- Development of an identification system and referral pathway that is standardised across services, where possible, for those children and families affected by imprisonment that are in need/require support.
- Increased strategic recognition in North Wales services about the impact of imprisonment on children and families from North Wales and their issues/support needs.
- Increased awareness amongst professionals and practitioners about the impact of imprisonment on children and families from North Wales and their issues/support needs.
- Improved access to information and support for children and families affected by imprisonment (and for the men, women and young offenders in custody on how on engage with, and support, their children and families).
- Increased awareness in schools about the impact of imprisonment on children and families and how this impact can affect children in the school environment; and the identification of Single Points of Contact (SPOCs) in participating schools that will be the person that these children/families can approach for support.
- Children and families affected by imprisonment of a family member have increased opportunities to influence service provision.
A year 2 Action Plan is now being prepared.
Family Ties Help Reduce Reoffending
Research has shown that close ties between prisoners and key family members can significantly reduce the risk of reoffending. Reoffending costs society, on average, £15 billion every year. A landmark study was therefore commissioned by the UK government to investigate how connecting prisoners with their families could improve offender wellbeing and reduce reoffending. The August 2017 report by Lord Farmer concluded that family relationships are “the golden thread” to help turn people away from crime and support families to cope.
Is Your Service included on ‘Dewis Cymru’?
‘Dewis Cymru’ is a new website to help people access local support services in Wales and to find the information they need to improve their own well-being and access local service in Wales.
It is an important first for Wales as it creates a single, clear and reliable point of access that can be used by members of the public, as well as service professionals, It is provided by the 22 local authorities across Wales as part of their information Advice and Assistance services.
The website currently contains a directory of over 6,200 local and national organisations and services including those provided by local councils, community groups, voluntary organisations and businesses.
If you provide a local service that can support children and families affected by imprisonment, please add it to the directory by going to www.dewis.wales for more information.
Further Useful Resources
The National Information Centre on Children of Offenders - https://www.nico.org.uk
Partners of Prisoners - https://www.partnersifprisoers.co.uk
Action for Prisoners and Offenders Families - http://www.familylives.org.uk
The Link – Families Affected by Imprisonment – Newsletters
These Newsletters have been instrumental in raising awareness of the specific issues and needs of the children and families of North Wales affected by Imprisonment of a family member.