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September 6, 2017 Children of Prisoners
Joint call for national advocacy strategy for children of prisoners


Wednesday, 6th September 2017

Joint call for national advocacy strategy for children of prisoners

Specific targeted supports in education, health, social protection and social welfare are required for children of prisoners, according to the Children’s Rights Alliance, Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) and UCC Law School academics.

Together, IPRT, Children’s Rights Alliance and Dr Fiona Donson and Dr Aisling Parkes, School of Law, University College Cork, are calling on the Government to develop a national advocacy strategy for children with a parent in prison. The joint call was made, today (06.09.17), at the “Unseen, Unheard: Advancing the Rights and Needs of Children with a Parent in Prison” seminar event, hosted by the three organisations.

Opening the seminar, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said: “Life is hard for a child who has a parent in prison. Being separated from your parent prevents families from doing normal, everyday things. Things like going to the park, doing homework or just hanging out together. Special times of the year are missed, like birthdays or going back to school. Visiting a parent in prison can be a harrowing experience. We don’t know how many children in Ireland have a parent in prison. But we do know that it has a major impact on their lives. Far more is needed to support and protect these children so they can enjoy childhood like other children.”

Children with parents serving a prison sentence face huge disruption and unease in all areas of their lives. This can greatly impact on their life outcomes, and sometimes result in early school drop-out and other complex social problems. Services and voices committed to listening to these children, and advocating for their needs are critical interventions that can – in the long-term – contribute to more positive outcomes and brighter futures for these children.

According to Dr Parkes and Dr Donson: “It is crucial that the needs of this discrete group, in relation to education, health, social protection and social welfare, are recognised and met. In accordance with international children’s rights standards, Ireland has a responsibility to ensure that the rights of such children are protected by adapting existing processes to support their long-term interests. A national and cross-sectoral approach is needed.”

Acting Director of the IPRT, Fíona Ní Chinnéide said: “The rights and needs of children affected by imprisonment in this country have been largely ignored within Irish policy and practice. It is almost five years since IPRT first published a report calling for children affected by imprisonment to have their rights and needs recognised and met. We look forward to working with the Government to make this happen.”

The seminar event saw members of Tusla, the Irish Prison Service, and Bedford Row join together to discuss the policy and practice prerequisites required for an effective response to the needs to this group of children in Ireland. Speakers included Ilina Taneva of the Council for Penological Co-operation, Council of Europe; and Tim Haines, Family Support Manager of Families Outside, Scotland.

The event was funded by the Irish Research Council.

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