Ministry of Justice

Over 160,000 UK children will lose a parent this year … to prison!

Ministry of Justice with Professor Alex Hirschfield (centre) October 2010 saw the UK prison population hit the record high of 85,495 prisoners. This ever increasing figure means that this year alone, according to estimates, over 160,000 UK children will endure the traumatic experience of seeing their parent or carer go to prison. Currently, there is limited data surrounding the effects on children with parents in prison.

Academics at the University of Huddersfield, along with three international institutions and a number of non-governmental organisations, are currently working on a European Union funded research project entitled COPING, Children of Prisoners, Interventions and Mitigations to Strengthen Mental Health, with the intention of producing vital information to fill the existing research gap.

The project, which is split into eight different work packages, includes undertaking surveys and interviews with children of prisoners, their parents and carers and other stakeholders. Professor Alex Hirschfield and Research Assistants Leanne Monchuk and Kathryn Sharratt from the Applied Criminology Centre are working on Work Package 4. This involves creating a comprehensive database of all services and interventions currently in place in prisons in England and Wales, designed to improve the well-being of the children of prisoners. A similar database is also being compiled to map services and interventions delivered by non-governmental organisations.

Professor Hirschfield said "This innovative project will identify the needs of this group within the UK and also across the EU. This is the first time that a project of this scale has been attempted".

Now almost 12 months into the three year project, the University recently welcomed representatives from the Ministry of Justice, to share the information they have already found.

Research Assistant Leanne Monchuk, said...
"The meeting was an opportunity to inform representatives from the Ministry of Justice about the aims and objectives of the COPING project and to discuss the potential for collaboration as they are currently in the process of mapping similar information"

Professor Hirschfield and his research team are currently awaiting responses from correspondence which have been sent out to all Governors, Directors of Offender Management and Regional Custodial managers in prisons in England and Wales. This will provide them with the information they need to compile their database on current services and interventions for the children of prisoners.