Rod Barton MP believes that data collection on children with parents in custody must be prioritised if we are to address perpetual cycles of disadvantage.
SHINE for Kids is an organisation that was set up to support children and young people who have relatives in the criminal justice system. They estimate around 77,000 young people in Australia currently have parents in prison. These children are up to 6 times more likely to end up in prison themselves.
Despite this clear need for family support in this area, there is a massive data gap. There is no one in Victoria keeping data of how many children have parents in custody despite this being easy data to collect. There is also no Minister accountable in Victoria for children with relatives in custody.
This begs the question; how do we know which children need these family support services?
Currently, Victoria is relying on the non-profit sector to fill this gap. SHINE for Kids offers programs such as one on one mentoring in the classroom, the ‘Ride by your Side’ program which provides supportive transport to children and a Prison in-visits program that supports the connection between parents and their children. As stated by Moana Waiti SHINE Family Practice Manager “SHINE for kids Victoria programs support positive family interactions, build connections and maintain the child bond with the parent in custody”. SHINE for Kids consider this work crime prevention.
These children are the invisible victims of crime. There are significant social and financial benefits to providing support early on and breaking these intergenerational cycles of disadvantage.
The cost of doing nothing is enormous. Children who have parents in custody have a lower life expectancy, are less likely to complete their education and are less likely to attain long-term employment. Above all as outlined by SHINE National Operations Manager April “they are children with promise who deserve support as they face their parents incarceration. They deserve the opportunity to thrive like every child. They shouldn’t be punished for the crimes of their parent”.”.
Barton believes that by not collecting data on these children, we are rendering them more invisible. Given the importance of this data, government should consider appropriate funding to key sector leaders, like SHINE, to collect, analyse and advise
on this data.
Quotes attributable to Member for Eastern Metropolitan and the Leader of the Transport Matters Party Rod Barton MP:
“Working with children and young people who have relatives in the criminal justice system is what early intervention support is all about.”
“Without data on who these kids are, how can we allocate resources to support this cohort?”
“There is a financial incentive to providing these wrap-around services early on. Without support, these children often experience a life of systematic disadvantage putting significant burdens on our welfare systems. Supporting these families
benefits the whole community.”
Media contact: Norm Dunn, Chief of Staff Rod Barton MP, 0438 175 113