Reformers have always been concerned at the impact of prison on the children of women offenders.
For the first time, the MoJ has provided us with an accurate picture of the scale of this problem with a new (8 October 2015) statistical bulletin: Female Offenders and Child Dependents.
The bulletin uses a new methodology. Previous estimates were bases on surveys of small samples of women offenders. The new approach uses “big data” – linking child benefit data to information on the Police National Computer.
The linked data was used to identify female offenders who made a child benefit claim at the time of their caution or conviction in 2012. This information was used to provide a minimum and maximum estimate for the percentage of offenders with child dependents in their care. The real value is predicted to fall somewhere within this range. The child benefit data also provided information on the number of child dependents associated with each claim
The headline findings were:
- Between 24% and 31% of all female offenders were estimated to have one or more child dependents.
- In comparison, the 2011 census showed that 36% of households with a female adult had dependent children
- On average, those with child dependents had 1.9 children.
- Office for National Statistics figures show that the average number of dependent children per family 2 in 2012 was 1.7.
- Female offenders aged 25 to 44 were most likely to have child dependents.
- Among the different disposal types, women receiving immediate custody were significantly less likely to have child dependents (between 13% and 19%).
Full details can be found in the chart below:
You can see that in 2012 10, 120 children were affected by their mothers being sent to prison.