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3.3.10 Guidance for Assessing Prison Contact


In May 2018, minor revisions were made to this chapter, primarily relating to layout.


1. Introduction and Overview
2. The Assessment
  2.1 The Child/Young Person
  2.2 The Carer
  2.3 The Prisoner
3. General Considerations
4. Useful Contacts

1. Introduction and Overview

This guidance can be used when assessing whether or not it is appropriate for a child or young person to have contact with somebody in prison.

An assessment will always be required when a prisoner has made a request for contact with a child and the prisoner in question has committed offences against children. Social Care will normally receive communication either from the prison directly or from the LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer) requesting a report be completed within three weeks outlining (a) the child's circumstances, (b) if contact is thought to be in the child's best interests, (c) what level of contact is appropriate and (d) identifying a suitable adult to accompany the child on a visit to prison.

The request for assessment would normally be received by MASH and passed through to the local Team for assessment and response.

The primary consideration must be the safety and long term welfare of the subject child and any other child associated with the prisoner. Agreement to contact for one child might be seen as setting a precedent for future contact with others.

2. The Assessment

When completing the assessment it is important to consider the following:-

2.1 The Child/Young Person

  • How does the child feel about contact?
  • If the child wishes to have contact, what is their motivation?
  • What does the child know and feel about the prisoner's imprisonment/offences?
  • What is the child's understanding of the nature of the prison environment and how do they feel about going into that?
  • What is the risk of the child being used to smuggle items into prison?
  • What is the nature of the relationship between the child and the prisoner? When is the last time they had contact?
  • What is the benefit of contact to the child?
  • How will it impact on the child if there is no contact?

2.2 The Carer

  • How does the carer feel about contact?
  • If the carer supports contact, what is their motivation?
  • What does the carer know and feel about the prisoner's imprisonment/offences?
  • Is there a risk of coercion or discouragement from the carer?
  • What is the risk that the carer is colluding with the prisoner? May they have had any involvement in the offences?
  • What is the carer's capacity to protect the child?

2.3 The Prisoner

  • What is the prisoner's motive for requesting contact?
  • The nature of the prisoner's offences, and their conviction history. Who was the victim(s)?
  • What is the risk of coercion from the prisoner?
  • Is there an ongoing police investigation?
  • What are the prisoner's plans/expectations upon release. Will they be having contact with or living with the child / carer?

3. General Considerations

  • It will be important to consider the child's history and create a chronology if there is not already one on file. A history of sexual abuse or other child protection concerns within the family may indicate a higher level of risk than is revealed through standard checks;
  • A single assessment should be undertaken and, if additional time is required, this should be agreed with the prison/LADO;
  • Report / Recommendations should be signed off by the Team Manager and sent to the prison and LADO Team;
  • It may be helpful to consider the facilities available for contact at the prison and refer to a preferred area for contact in the assessment where applicable;
  • Prison staff will not generally be able to offer any additional support during the contact itself. It is therefore very important that your assessment identifies whether or not the child's parent/carer is able to keep the child safe and end contact if they feel it is necessary.

4. Useful Contacts

  • It is important to make contact with the prisoner's probation officer as they will have information about the prisoner's character and offences that may not be known to anyone else;
  • The prisoner will have a dedicated worker within the prison who will be able to share relevant information with you;
  • Liaise with the LADO Team as they may have relevant information. The LADO Team are involved with all cases of prisoners who worked with children and have committed an offence against a child;
  • Keep the prison informed if your assessment is taking longer than expected.

The prison's Governor will make the decision about the level of contact to allow the prisoner to have with the child in question. The social work assessment, along with a report from the Probation Provider and the Police, will inform this decision.

This process will be different for children who are Looked After and will require more consideration of the practicalities of arranging and supervising prison contact that are not necessary here.