Launched last month by voluntary sector charity YSS, Families First is already starting to make a difference in Worcestershire to children and young adults affected by the imprisonment of a loved one.
Nationally, an estimated 312,000 children are affected annually by parental imprisonment, with an estimated 2,500 of these children living in Worcestershire. The health and educational impact on learning is largely documented yet remains essentially invisible.
YSS CEO Catherine Kevis, explains: “These children are victims of circumstances outside of their control, yet they carry the shame associated with the imprisoned parent’s offence. During lockdown, prison visits are halted and not every family has the means to connect virtually; this has exacerbated the issue with so many children now unable to connect with their missing parent.
“We encourage schools, friends and family to contact us and talk to our Families First workers if they know of a child in need of help; we do not judge but simply deploy our knowledge to help them get through what are very challenging and difficult times.”
Working within the criminal justice system and social care YSS has successfully delivered services across West Mercia and the wider West Midlands since 1986, with the Families First service designed to bring together professionals and community organisations to deliver a targeted response aimed at reducing the emotional distress experienced by so many children and their families. Over the long term, this adverse childhood experience has the potential to negatively impact children’s life chances in education, mental health, and identity.
The Families First service has support from Worcestershire County Council and two charitable trusts.
Councillor Andy Roberts, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Children and Families said: “As the county’s lead councillor for children’s services I am pleased to support the Families First service and what YSS has done to support its launch.
“The effect on children of having a parent or significant adult imprisoned is not always clear or easy to identify. However, the research suggests that some children will be adversely affected. To provide the potential for invaluable early help the minimum a family needs is to have the opportunity to access information and an ability to contact someone for support. It is important for them to be in touch with someone who will understand their experience.”