Mary Fee MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 26 February 2015 : Thursday, February 26, 2015
Mary Fee

The point that I have tried to make all along in relation to child impact assessments is that although I acknowledge that in some cases they are done, the focus is on the offender and not on the child. We need to move the focus on to the child if we are ever to make a real difference.



Meeting of the Parliament 26 February 2015 : Thursday, February 26, 2015
Mary Fee (West Scotland) (Lab)

I am pleased to speak to my members’ business motion on the report by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and Barnardo’s, “An unfair sentence—All Babies Count: Spotlight on the Criminal Justice System”, which highlights the issue of babies and parental imprisonment and reviews the evidence on how babies are affected by imprisonment, what services are effective and how practice can be improved.

Pregnancy and the first years of a baby’s life are important in giving a child a healthy start. Mothers need support and care during pregnancy and, once born, babies need a safe and stimulating environment and a healthy early relationship with their care givers. Not receiving those will lead to adverse effects on the baby’s physical, social and emotional development.

There has been no empirical study of the effect of imprisonment on infants in the United Kingdom and the knowledge that is currently available is based on psychological theory. The report details mental health problems for women in prison and their children, and finds that women in prison are five times more likely to have mental health problems than women in the general population and that children of prisoners have at least twice as high a risk of developing mental health problems as their peers and three times as high a risk of exhibiting antisocial or delinquent behaviour. That can result in intergenerational offending, with an estimated 65 per cent of boys with a parent in prison likely to go on to offend themselves.

The negative effects of parental imprisonment on infant development and future prospects have clearly been identified. However, it is difficult to begin to help this vulnerable group when we do not have exact figures. Estimates show that there are between 20,000 and 27,000 children under the age of 18 who are affected by parental imprisonment in Scotland. Using those estimates, and assuming that the age distribution of children with parents in prison is the same as children in the general population, the NSPCC estimates that between 3,400 and 4,600 infants under the age of three are affected.

There is currently no systematic approach to quantifying how many babies have a parent in prison in Scotland. However, in the Scottish Prison Service’s 13th prisoner survey, almost two thirds of female prisoners and half of male prisoners—65 and 52 per cent, respectively—reported having children.

The report specifies some examples of interventions that are delivered in prisons, which are beginning to emerge. However, the success of those schemes to date tends to be judged more on the outcomes for the parent than for the infant. The intervention programmes are being delivered by a range of third sector organisations, including Family Action, the Prison Advice and Care Trust, Mellow Parenting, the NSPCC and the Aberlour Child Care Trust. However, those interventions are not centrally organised and it seems to come down to luck whether the mothers of infants are able to participate in the programmes.

The report by the NSPCC and Barnardo’s highlighted six key recommendations on how outcomes can be improved. It says that the Scottish Government should formally identify infants affected by the criminal justice system as a specific vulnerable group; that the Scottish Government should introduce child impact assessments for those who are on custodial and non-custodial sentences; that local councils should develop a system of data sharing between early years services, parenting, family support services and local offender management; that a national framework of outcomes and standards for babies affected by criminal justice should be created in order to integrate maternal and infant health policy, early years services and criminal justice; that the needs of infants who are affected by the criminal justice system should be addressed in children’s services planning and the planning of offender management services in order to co-ordinate those; and, finally, that support based on evidence should be given to parents in prison with a particular focus on promoting sensitive care giving.

In the majority of countries that allow mothers to live with their babies in prison, the maximum age limit is generally three, which is double that of the United Kingdom. Ensuring that babies can live with their mothers while they are in prison can have a positive developmental influence. However, a recent inspection of the mother and baby unit at HMP Cornton Vale branded the unit unfit for purpose, which is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue.

The report is not the first one to look at the wider subject of children who are affected by parental imprisonment. Numerous reports have been conducted by third sector organisations, with each focusing on its own specific angle and contributing to the growing body of research into this issue. Those reports include “Not Seen. Not Heard. Not Guilty” by Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, which focused on issues with visiting and the actions of the Scottish Government, SPS and local authorities, and the Families Outside report, “The Role of Schools in Supporting Families Affected by Imprisonment”, which focused on education and the impact of the getting it right for every child policy.

As many members might know, I have recently lodged for consultation a proposal for a member’s bill—the support for children (impact of parental imprisonment) (Scotland) bill. The bill would place a statutory duty on the courts to order a child and family impact assessment after a sentencing decision had been handed down. The bill would amend the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 to specifically recognise children who are affected by parental imprisonment as one of the two groups—the other being looked-after children—in relation to which it is presumed that a child will have additional support needs.

My proposal is in line with some of the key recommendations that were made by the NSPCC and Barnardo’s in their report, and I hope that it will make a start in providing support for this group of unseen and vulnerable children. I urge everyone who has an interest in this area to respond to my consultation, and I hope that my fellow members can support my proposal.

The report recognises that there has been little focus on how best to meet the social, psychological and emotional needs of infants when their mothers or fathers are in prison. It highlights the impact of imprisonment on families and the fact that it makes meeting babies’ needs especially challenging. However, by understanding those issues, we can provide support for parents, carers and babies at this critical time in a child’s development.

I thank the NSPCC and Barnardo’s for the help and support that they have given me. I also thank members across the chamber who supported the motion, allowing it to be debated, and I look forward to listening to contributions from across the chamber.



Meeting of the Parliament 26 February 2015 : Thursday, February 26, 2015
Mary Fee

The closure of the Winchburgh tunnel coincides with the Scottish open championship in St Andrews. If the Dalmeny chord had been electrified before the tunnel’s closure, as was planned before 2012, trains would have been able to run via Dalmeny without reversing and disruption could therefore have been avoided. Does the minister agree that the disruption on the railways during the summer could have been avoided had the Scottish Government decided not to scale back EGIP in 2012?



Meeting of the Parliament 26 February 2015 : Thursday, February 26, 2015
1. Mary Fee (West Scotland) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government how it will support travellers facing disruption due to the closure of the Winchburgh tunnel in summer 2015. (S4O-04051)



Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee 25 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Mary Fee

Okay. Thank you for your positive responses.



Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee 25 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Mary Fee

So if there was some way to shorten that process—



Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee 25 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Mary Fee

But on the whole, the regulation works well. What about planning policies? Do you see any issues with the planning system in relation to the national planning framework? Does all that function effectively with your set-up and your strategies for planning ahead?



Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee 25 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Mary Fee

I want to ask about Government support and policy. In the submissions that we have received, there is a feeling that there should be a hands-off approach to ports policy and that it should be private sector led. Can you identify any policy or regulatory obstacles that impact on the free flow of freight by sea, road and rail? Could the Government do anything in particular to help the interconnectivity of freight?



Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee 25 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Mary Fee

That was very clever. [Laughter.]



Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee 25 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Mary Fee

How do you promote that in ports down south? What promotion do you do? How do you work with partner ports?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-12423.1 Alex Rowley: Commission on Local Tax Reform—As an amendment to motion S4M-12423 in the n
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Not VotedCarried

S4M-12423 Marco Biagi: Commission on Local Tax Reform—That the Parliament supports the establishment
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Not VotedCarried

S4M-12385 Liz Smith: STEM Education in Scottish Schools—That the Parliament agrees that a solid grou
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12395.1 Fergus Ewing: An Energy Strategy for Scotland—As an amendment to motion S4M-12395 in the
>> Show more
NoCarried

S4M-12395.2 Patrick Harvie: An Energy Strategy for Scotland—As an amendment to motion S4M-12395 in t
>> Show more
AbstainDefeated

S4M-12395 Murdo Fraser: An Energy Strategy for Scotland—That the Parliament notes with concern the l
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NoCarried

S4M-12385.3 Alasdair Allan: STEM Education in Scottish Schools—As an amendment to motion S4M-12385 i
>> Show more
NoCarried

S4M-12382.3 Mary Fee: Building Scotland’s Infrastructure for the Future—As an amendment to motion S4
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YesDefeated

S4M-12382.1 Gavin Brown: Building Scotland’s Infrastructure for the Future—As an amendment to motion
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-12382.2 Willie Rennie: Building Scotland’s Infrastructure for the Future—As an amendment to moti
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Mary Fee
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-12382.3: Mary Fee, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 23/02/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12266: Mary Fee, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 06/02/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12034.2: Mary Fee, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 12/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11763: Mary Fee, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 01/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11615: Mary Fee, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 19/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11365: Mary Fee, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 30/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11023.1: Mary Fee, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 29/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10155: Mary Fee, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 28/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09968: Mary Fee, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 07/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09719: Mary Fee, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 11/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Mary Fee
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-04051: Mary Fee, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24437: Mary Fee, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 12/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24435: Mary Fee, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 12/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24436: Mary Fee, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 12/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03982: Mary Fee, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 26/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24114: Mary Fee, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 21/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24115: Mary Fee, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 21/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24109: Mary Fee, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 21/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24111: Mary Fee, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 21/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24110: Mary Fee, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 21/01/2015 Show Full Question >>

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