Specific Government agencies working with invisible children

Health agency working with invisible children

invisiblechildrenOne organisation within the health sector that has been actively considering the health of prisoners and their families has been the National Health Committee.

In a recent report, that agency notes:

Large gaps remain in the body of research, notably collection of basic health status and health needs, benchmarking to evaluate improvement and information sharing among agencies and between agencies and health professionals.

Furthermore… the question of the health effects of prison is not being adequately addressed anywhere in the world.

Although there are many omissions in the international literature, the most glaring include the impact of imprisonment on oral health, the quantification of physical injuries in prisons, the effects on or deterioration of (existing) disabilities including vision and hearing and the medical impacts on the children and families of inmates. All of these are also missing from local information (National Health Committee, 2008 pp 3-4).

The National Health Committee has a research agenda to examine the health effects of imprisonment on the families and the invisible children of prisoners, and a current project involving qualitative interviews with whanau, which should be available in 2010.

Invisible children and justice agencies

Another agency that has done some work in this area is the strategic policy unit of the Ministry of Justice, which has a work program examining what is called the unintended consequences  of incarceration on families and communities.

So far this work has largely consisted of a literature review, and consultation with other agencies, but it is ongoing.

The only other agency with a developing work programme looking at the families and children of prisoners is the Families Commission.

In a change of focus six months ago, the Commission is now re-focussing its work program towards at risk whanau. In our interview with commissioners, we were told that the Commission were implementing a justice aspect to its work programme. We have now been told that the organisation is looking to the results of our study,  here at PILLARS, and the NHC work, instead of implementing a further research project.

The Department of Corrections has a range of existing policies and practices relating to the children of prisoners. A sentenced prisoner will undertake an Offender Plan Assessment, which aims to discover the person’s needs while in prison. Part of that plan includes the provision of information about whanau/families and children.

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