Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the NEU, said:

“An estimated 17,000 children are affected by maternal imprisonment each year. The impact on children and young people when their mother is sentenced to prison is devastating. Women are often sole carers and so custodial sentences inevitably result in children taken into care or being up rooted or forced to permanently leave their homes. We must learn from the national reviews which have shown the efficacy of non-custodial interventions.

“72% of women are sent to prison for non-violent offences such as debt or theft. A significant proportion of women in the criminal justice system are also victims and have faced domestic abuse, child abuse, addiction or poor mental health. Sentencing women for minor offences, many of whom have already been failed by society, punishes them twice over and their children face an uncertain and frightening future without the support or care of a parent.

“There are good quality prevention schemes and community-based alternatives to custody available, but they need funding and support. It cannot be right that in 2022 such little care or understanding is given to women and their families when faced with prison. We need more weight given to the serious impact for children and the repercussions for them when mothers receive custodial sentences.

“The NEU wants better access to training based on trauma-informed approaches so schools can better support looked-after children and children with parents in prisons. The NEU wants to share good practice about how schools can support children where a parent is imprisoned.”

Editor’s Note

An estimated 17,000 children are affected by maternal imprisonment each year - Kincaid, S., Roberts, M. & Kane, E. (2019) Children of Prisoners: Fixing a broken system, Crest Advisory

72% of women are sent to prison for non-violent offences like debt   - MOJ Offender Management stats in Prison Trust (2021) Why focus on reducing women’s imprisonment? 


Note to editors

We are currently in Bournemouth for our Annual Conference (11-14 April), during which time you will receive a higher number of press releases than usual.  

The Conference Press Office can be reached on 07879 480 061. You can also email the press officer at  

Our conference agenda is available here

The hashtag for Annual Conference is #NEU2022 

  • The National Education Union stands up for the future of education. It brings together the voices of more than 450,000 teachers, lecturers, support staff and leaders working in maintained and independent schools and colleges across the UK, to form the largest education union in Europe. 
  • It is an independent, registered trade union and professional association, representing its members in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. 

The National Education Union is affiliated to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) and Education International (EI). It is not affiliated to any political party and seeks to work constructively with all the main political parties.