The children of prisoners seem invisible in this whole equation,” says Sarah Burrows, founder of Children Heard and Seen.
The charity supports children and families with parents or partners serving time, fighting the stigma and shame they face in their communities. Children whose parents have been convicted are three times more likely to commit a crime themselves, while 65 per cent of boys whose fathers are incarcerated will end up in prison themselves one day.
Burrows has worked with vulnerable children in Oxfordshire since the beginning of her career, when she left school and picked up a job in a local children’s home. She moved between studying social work and continuing in residential care until she joined a scheme that protects children at risk of offending.
While working to reduce the number of young people entering the criminal justice system, the 54-year-old was gripped by a need to know why they were becoming enmeshed in the first place. It didn’t take long for her to pin down a recurring theme – an overwhelming majority of them had a parent already
Burrows assumed there would be tailored support available for a vulnerable group like the children of prisoners in her area; she was convinced that this was the key to reducing childhood offences. But, she says, there was nothing. So she took matters into her own hands.