Call for an end to prison scheme stopping children visiting fathers

By agency reporter
June 17, 2018

Barnardo’s is calling for an end to unfair prison rules which punish children whose fathers haven’t earned the right to see them, as the country celebrates Father’s Day. Family visits are being taken away to penalise male prisoners who don’t demonstrate positive and motivated behaviour, leaving some children with just two hours every four weeks to see their dads.

Around 200,000 children are affected by parental imprisonment each year in England and Wales and children make nearly 10,000 visits each week to public prisons.

Barnardo’s runs services in the community and in prisons to help maintain contact and support family relationships. 

Barnardo’s has called on the Government to change the regulations governing the Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) Scheme in male prisons so that they are in line with those currently governing women’s prisons. Barnardo’s was told nearly two years ago that this scheme was under review.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan, said: “Children’s relationships with their fathers are vital for their emotional development. We know from our work in family visitor centres in prisons and in the community that these relationships are often strong and caring. 

“We have been urging the Government to scrap this unjust scheme which punishes children for nearly two years. We were told it was under review and that a consultation would follow - yet children are still suffering.

“This is unacceptable and the Government must take urgent action to prevent even more children being denied family visit days with their dads.”

Under the IEP system, male prisoners are entitled to just two hours a month to see their children. They can earn more than these ‘basic’ visiting rights by demonstrating motivation, seeking qualifications, helping other prisoners or staff.

Prisoners on ‘enhanced’ status get family weekend and holiday visits from their children but other prisoners’ children have to take time off during a school day.

Visiting rights are separate from the scheme for female prisoners. The guidance for women’s prisons states: “Children should not be penalised from visiting or contacting their mother because of the mother’s behaviour. The number of visits by children should not be restricted in order to serve the needs of an incentive scheme.”

Having a father in prison is hard enough on children, says Barnardo’s, even if the unfair IEP system was not in place. Children can miss out on visits even if their fathers behave well. Katherine, (not her real name), from Essex, saw how her eight-year-old son Daniel was affected when visits didn’t go ahead. Daniel and Katherine were both supported by Barnardo’s.

Daniel’s father was sentenced to three years in prison and is due for early release in August 2018.

Katherine said: “He had no previous convictions. I wasn’t in court because I had to look after Daniel. I had to tell Daniel that his daddy wasn’t coming home and wouldn’t be for some time.”

Daniel, 8, said: “I was crying for about two hours.  I was very sad at the beginning. I started to get very upset. My dad and I used to play a lot together and do gardening.

Katherine: “Daniel’s behaviour stated to change. He wasn’t talking to me, his brothers or friends at school. I didn’t want anyone to know about his dad being in prison but the school brought the change in behaviour to my attention and so I told them.

“The school was really good. They referred us to Barnardo’s because the charity had already done some work with them.

“You aren’t told much by the authorities. My husband had a stroke in prison and we weren’t immediately told he was in hospital. He was due to have a home visit in December but the paperwork wasn’t completed by the prison. Daniel was looking forward to seeing his dad two weeks before Christmas but it didn’t happen.

“Another home visit planned for the following month didn’t go ahead either. This created a lot of upset for Daniel who could get very angry at times. One day he scratched his fingernails down his face and began hurting himself.”

“When the first home visit happened Daniel came into our bedroom and slept on the floor next to his dad so he could be close to him.”

* Barnardo's http://www.barnardos.org.uk/

[Ekk/6]

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