Children with a father in prison are often the innocent victims torn apart from their dads and left counting the days until they can visit them.

As if that’s not tough enough, thousands of children are refused the chance to spend quality time with their fathers At the crux of the matter is a prison scheme that grants family visits to reward male prisoners for demonstrating certain behaviours. While intended to instil discipline in male prisoners, the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme (IEP) also hurts the ones that have done nothing wrong – their children.

Family visits are being refused if fathers have not reached a certain level in the scheme.

Tough, you might say. But tough on who? Tough on the innocent child looking forward to precious time playing with their dad.

Guidance for women’s prisons states ‘children should not be penalised from visiting or contacting their mother because of the mother’s behaviour’. Are we really saying that a father is less important than a mother? It is unlikely a child sees it that way.

Barnardo’s supports thousands of children and their families affected by a parent in prison every year. Children of prisoners are more likely to experience mental health problems, bullying, poverty and poor achievement.

The Government must address this now, as maintaining family ties is essential for children’s emotional development and life chances.

Javed Khan, Chief Executive Barnardo’s