This talk was part of a podcast on BBC Radio 4, first broadcast 30th June 2021. For the full podcast version, including an extended Q & A, go to Four Thought, on BBC Sounds
Lockdowns both inside and outside prisons look like they will be part of our national life for some time, and it is not too late for changes to be made which prioritise children’s wellbeing in conjunction with public health in prisons.
It may well have been a proportionate response to stop physical visits on the 23rd March in the light of the public health crisis, but the total removal of the right to family life through contact with their parent, of every child with a parent in prison, extending now for 100+ days, seems to be neither reasonable nor proportionate.
I’m 10 years old. Mum has been away for 18 months . We didn’t go to see her because she was coming home every 2 weeks for 5 days until the virus. We haven’t seen her or dad for 3 1/2 months. Not even her face. Mum phones every day I can’t explain how it makes me feel. it makes me feel sad and confused.
I miss my mum. I want to hug her and I miss her so much
”when can I see my dad?’, ‘will my dad get covid?’, ‘will my dad be ok mum?’. I can’t answer. Not one of them. As a mum I feel helpless listening to my children cry, holding them at night when they want to be held by their dad. They kiss his picture every night not knowing when they will get their next real kiss or cuddle. My disabled boy is continuing to lose weight fast, not wanting to eat, can’t express how he feels. All he says is ‘Dad, my Dad’. It’s heartbreaking. If my boy losses his fight he will have been without contact for 10 weeks without him touching or seeing daddy’s face.’
Children need carefully supported and good contacts with their parents. Digital contact should be used to enhance face to face contacts; it should not be the pinnacle of contact, experienced by only a tiny proportion of children during this time. Particular thought should be given to the ways to re-introduce face to face contact for younger and disabled children who cannot engage with telephone or digital contact effectively