Families of those in prison 'serving their own sentence'

Families facing food and fuel poverty with one mum paying an extra £100 a month to ensure her child can video call her father.

The family members of those in Scottish prisons claim they’ll be serving their own sentences this winter as the cost of living continues to bite.

Charity Families Outside warned more families are facing extreme poverty due to the costs involved with a parent being imprisoned.

Chiefs said it’s disproportionately affecting single mums and children from Scotland’s most deprived areas.

‘Karen’ – not her real name to protect her identity – is a single mum in Aberdeen.

The father of her child is currently service a prison sentence.

She says she has to pay out an extra £100 per month to make sure her child stays in contact with her father.

Costs can range from simply ensuring a Wi-Fi bill is paid so that video calls can go ahead to paying for fuel to make in-person visits.

‘Karen’ said: “I guess it’s ensuring that the power doesn’t run out when my child is meant to be having their communication with their other parent. Or even just making sure that my kid wakes up with a smile on Christmas day or has a full belly from day to day.

“I always try to make sure there’s plenty of food in the house, but it isn’t always feasible.

“Being a single parent is hard enough, never mind the fact you have an absent parent due to imprisonment.”

Research from the charity Families Outside which support those with a family member in prison show that the average spend per month to support someone on remand is £300.

That’s because prisoners can’t make a prison wage at that point, but still need to buy clothing and toiletries.

After they are sentenced, that changes, and the average spend drops down to £180 a month.

But after release the average cost jumps back up to £300 per month to support the family member until they find employment.

The charity said more families than ever who are supporting someone in prison, are experiencing extreme food and fuel poverty.

They fear it is only set to get worse as colder nights approach.

Kerry Knox, Head of Family Support at Families Outside said: “We heard from a mother in the winter who had skipped three hot meals so that she could afford to pay for her child’s meals.

“She has the additional cost of supporting someone in prison so when we are looking at small costs these amounts will add up and can make a significant difference in terms of being able to feed yourself and feed your family.”

However, many parents on the outside feel a relationship with the parent imprisoned is essential for the child.

Karen said: “In my opinion, children need both parents. Unless that parent has done something of a detriment to that child, the child deserves to have a relationship with that parent, if that’s what they so choose to do or if that’s what they seek.

“I saw how the loss of that parent initially had such a negative impact on my child and how they were coping in their day-to-day life – and how that was drastically minimised when that contact opened back up again. In my opinion, it is super important for the wellbeing of the child that they maintain that relationship with the other parent.”

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