Our latest guest blog post comes from the team behind Barnardo’s fantastic new resource, the i-HOP Quality Statements and Toolkit. This comprehensive, easy to use tool includes examples of innovative practice and useful action checklists for services, in order to better support the children of offenders.
Every year, an estimated 200,000 children per year in England and Wales and 16,500 in Scotland experience the imprisonment of a parent. They face poorer outcomes than their peers, including higher risks of mental health problems, povertyand negative school experiences. Last year in Scotland, Parliament passed a Criminal Justice Bill that included a provision to identify and support children of prisoners. The amendment in question requires all prisoners to be asked for details of any dependent children so that an assessment of their needs can be made. Such changes are yet to come to England and Wales where there is no officially recognised and routine identification of these children nor statutory guidance as to how to support their needs.
The Department for Education (DfE) recognises that professionals need to have an awareness of who these children are, what their needs are and how best to meet them. In 2013 the DfE commissioned Barnardo’s in partnership with POPS (Partners of Prisoners Support group), to develop a one stop information service for all professionals who may come into contact with the children and families of offenders. This service would come to be known as i-HOP. i-HOP’s website function allows professionals, commissioners, students and academics to identify local and national practice and interventions, training opportunities, key research and local and national policy guidelines. i-HOP also provides a national engagement programme of free workshops to cross sector professionals. In this way we enable multi level, cross sector staff to develop their practice and decision making around children and families of offenders.
In 2015 the DfE commissioned i-HOP to utilise the best of the evidence and practice examples on the i-HOP website to produce a useful tool for assessing and developing practice with the children of offenders which was relevant across universal, targeted, specialist and criminal justice services. i-HOP instinctively decided to work in partnership with Research in Practice on this due to their track record of producing evidence based, practice focus, child-centred resources for professionals.
The development process started with the compilation of a database of UK based research, national and local policy and practice examples and case studies. Using this and our general knowledge in the area we identified eight overarching Quality Statements which highlighted key principles of successful work with these children. These included
- Children’s voice and rights
- Multi-agency working
- Stages of the criminal justice system
- Support and services
- Challenging stigma
- Building the evidence.
Then the Statements were qualified and the Toolkit was developed by consulting with children and young people who had experienced the involvement of a loved one in the Criminal Justice System and multi-agency professionals at the i-HOP workshops. Our final draft was piloted by Troubled Families and Integrated Offender Management teams.
Out of the pilot process came the final Quality Statements and Toolkit which includes examples of innovative practice, useful action check lists for services, and the voices of the young people who were part of the consultation. The appendix holds a template to support services to self-assess and develop a realistic work plan.
i-HOP know too well that services often feel the strain of doing more with less, and we believe this resource can aid the development of effective practice for all services. See the Quality Statements and Toolkit page on the i-HOP website for Toolkit, accompanying resource database, a brief explanatory introduction video to this comprehensive resource. Although most practice examples are of English services, services from all home nations are able to use this handy resource.
We welcome feedback on its effectiveness and would love to hear how it is working in practice as services develop their crucial work with the children of offenders. Please help us share this extremely useful resource with as many services as possible.