New bill aims to support children of offenders

Date: 5th February 2015
Category: Children of prisoners

The Support for Children (Impact of Parental Imprisonment) (Scotland) Bill was launched on Thursday 5th February 2015 and is now seeking responses as part of the consultation.

There are up to 27,000 children experiencing parental imprisonment in Scotland alone, and each year more children experience a parent's imprisonment than a parent's divorce across the UK. The decision to send a parent to prison has a tremendous impact on a child: children affected by imprisonment are vulnerable to serious mental health issues at three times the rate of other children, frequently experience deterioration in performance at school and are often bullied.

The Support for Children (Impact of Parental Imprisonment) (Scotland) Bill is a Private Members Bill put forward by Mary Fee MSP seeking to support and improve the outcomes for this hidden and vulnerable group of children.

Section 1 of the Support for Children (Impact of Parental Imprisonment) Bill would amend the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 to place a statutory duty on the courts to order a Child and Family Impact Assessment after a sentencing decision has been handed down.

Section 2 of the Bill would amend the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland Act) to specifically recognise children affected by parental imprisonment on the face of the Act, as one of the two groups of children (the other being looked after children) where it is presumed that a child will have additional support needs.

Responses to the proposals are welcomed and should be submitted by 7th of May 2015.

The Bill has been supported by Barnardo's Scotland, Families Outside and NSPCC Scotland as reported in a recent article by Third Force News.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended in its 2008 Concluding Observations that UK governments 'Ensure support to children with one or both parents in prison, in particular to maintain contact with the parent(s) (unless this is contrary to their best interests) and to prevent their stigmatisation and discrimination against them.'