23 Jun 2015

Children of prisoners need more help - advocate

8:11 am on 23 June 2015

A Māori prison reform advocate says there needs to be a Government policy that improves outcomes for children with a parent in prison.

The Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit estimates that 20,000 children are affected by parental imprisonment and Māori children are much more likely to have a parent in prison compared to non-Māori.

The unit's latest research said there is a range of negative impacts that children with a parent in prison experience, including long-term poor health and their own high risk of future imprisonment.

Rethinking Crime and Punishment spokesperson Kim Workman said Māori tamariki were more vulnerable, and research was needed into the positive effects of support groups for children with parents in prison.

"When you get conditions and systems that put people at disadvantage, that puts Māori at increased disadvantage because there are more of them and so the effect is quite traumatic on families, so this is a target group that really needs the attention of policy."

Department of Corrections spokesperson Jo Field said they had developed a Child Protection Policy and set up a dedicated reporting phone line to Child, Youth and Family to help tamariki at risk.

Ms Field said its Child Protection Policy helped staff spot signs of abuse and sets out what to do if they suspected a child may be being abused or neglected.

She said the department was also involved with planning inter-agency work which supported children and families.