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Media Advisory: Joint call for national advocacy strategy for children of prisoners

6th September 2017

Specific targeted supports in education, health, social protection and social welfare are required for children with a parent in prison, 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.

Led by UCC, the publication and dissemination of a ‘Principles of Action for Children with a Parent in Prison’ briefing at the event aims to provide a blueprint for future Government action in this much neglected area.

The event was funded by the Irish Research Council.


Note to Editors:

The following are available for interview:

  • Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Acting Executive Director, Irish Penal Reform Trust
  • Dr. Fiona Donson, School of Law, University College Cork

About IPRT

Established in 1994, the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for rights in the penal system and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy. Its vision is one of respect for rights in the penal system, with prison as a last resort. IPRT is committed to respecting the rights of everyone in the penal system and to reducing imprisonment. It is working towards progressive reform of the penal system based on evidence-led policies and on a commitment to combating social injustice.

IPRT publishes a wide range of policy positions and research documents; it campaigns vigorously across a wide range of penal policy issues; and has established itself as the leading independent voice in public debate on the Irish penal system.

About Dr Fiona Donson and Dr Aisling Parkes, School of Law, University College Cork

Since 2011, Dr Aisling Parkes and Dr Fiona Donson, academics from the School of Law, University College Cork, have pioneered research in Ireland on the rights of children with a parent in prison. As a team, they have developed unique and specialist expertise in a niche area. To date, research outputs of an interdisciplinary nature which have included: the delivery of conference papers and workshops at highly prestigious and cross disciplinary international conferences as well as published (and forthcoming) work in international peer reviewed journals, books and collections of essays from leading researchers in the field. As a result of its ambitious and ground-breaking nature, the team has successfully attracted a significant number of research grants and awards, with both researchers acting as Principal Investigators. Moreover, the team has organised and hosted events of a national and international nature, designed to inform both theory and practice in this area. At the European level, both team members were invited by the Council of Europe (COE) in 2017 to contribute directly to the formal drafting of a COE Recommendation on Children of Imprisoned Parents which will be adopted by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers in 2018.

About Children’s Rights Alliance

Founded in 1995, the Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 100 members working together to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child. We change the lives of all children in Ireland by making sure that their rights are respected and protected in our laws, policies and services.

We identify problems for children. We develop solutions. We educate and provide information on children’s rights. We unite our members and put pressure on government and decision-makers to put children first.

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