The impact of covid-19 prison lockdowns on children who have a parent in prison

The full report is available to download or view online here

It is one year since prisons in the UK instituted restricted regimes in a bid to manage the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

It is one year since many of the 300,000 children whose parent is in prison have been able to see their parent.

The impacts of the loss of face to face contact for children have been devastating, and the full effects are unlikely to be properly accounted for, for some time.

This report, published 15th March 2021, highlights the experiences of more than 70 children and their caregivers during the first lockdown in 2020.

Executive Summary

  • Thousands of children in the UK have not seen their parent in prison for a year.
  • Face to face visits were stopped in prisons on or around 13th March 2020, and although some prisons reopened for restricted face to face visits over the summer months, several periods of national lockdown have effectively stopped visits for almost 12 months. 
  • The prison estate in England and Wales did not have video call facilities operational in all prisons until January 2021. 
  • Video calls have been limited and problematic for children.
  • This amounts to an interference with children’s right to family life. Many of these children enjoyed regular and positive contact with their parent prior to prison lockdown.
  • This loss of contact has negatively impacted children’s relationships with their imprisoned parents and their mental and physical health and wellbeing. Children may not understand why contact has stopped and may blame themselves.
  • The effects of this loss of contact and disruption to family relationships are likely to be long term and will affect family reunification and resettlement after imprisonment. 
  • Other jurisdictions have managed the public health emergency in ways which have not removed children’s meaningful relationships with their parent, through the use of more frequent and reliable video calls, face to face visits with physical contact for children, and early release schemes.
  • The pandemic is not yet over, and it is likely that prisons will continue to use restricted regimes to reduce the spread of Covid-19 within their populations. It is not too late for the UK to make changes to its management of prison visits and communication for prisoners with their families, in order to mitigate the harms which have been done to children in the past 12 months

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