“I don’t think that the children whose parents are in prison are taken into consideration in terms of resources, attitudes and awareness at the EU level.”


-Jean Lambert, MEP London

Read the full Conference Outcome Report.

The main event for the ECH team in 2012 was the conference marking the end of the Children of Prisoners, Mitigations and Interventions to Strengthen Mental Health (COPING) Project.

The EU-funded project spanned 4 countries and 3 years and focused on collecting data on children of prisoners in Sweden, Germany, Romania and the UK.

Led by the University of Huddersfield, the COPING Project was unique in that it partnered an NGO with a university in each of the countries conducting research.

Early in the year, the Conference Planning Committee, chaired by ECH set about defining the objectives, target audience and structure of the day.  

The COPING Project findings led to the creation of policy recommendations and the conference day served as a platform of presenting both the data collected over the 3-year period as well as showcasing the policy recommendations to an audience of policymakers and practitioners.

The conference, entitled COPING with a Parent in Prison: An Agenda for Policy Reform, was held at the Cinquantenaire Museum in Brussels on 6 November.  Over 120 delegates were in attendance.

The morning session of the day was chaired by ECH Member Maja Gabelica Supljika, Deputy Ombudsman for Children Croatia and opened with an opening speech by The Right Hon Baroness Hale of Richmond, with a keynote speech by Jean Lambert, MEP London.  Both women spoke on the importance of recognising the rights of children of prisoners in judicial systems throughout the EU.

The morning session continued with presentations from within the COPING research consortium.  Research was presented from the study during the morning session by the following academics:

  • Adele Jones, University of Huddersfield
  • Matthias Schützwohl, Universität Dresden
  • Martin Manby, University of Huddersfield
  • Anne H. Berman, Karolinska Institutet

The presentation of research findings on this scale markedthe first time such data was conducted and showcased at the EU level regarding children of prisoners.  The conference stage served as a springboard for taking the issue into an EU agenda.

Following the presentations of findings was a series of presentations from the NGO members of the COPING consortium, focusing on the practical impact the research had in their own work.  The afternoon session began with a presentation of policy recommendations that were based on research findings.

Alex Hirschfield, of the University of Huddersfield presented these recommendations, which included:

  • Children have the right to get information that is important to their health and well-being
  • Child’s right to privacy/police raids
  • Children have the right to not be discriminated against
  • Children have the right to information and support and the right for their parents to receive support
  • Children have the right to information and support and the right for their parents to receive support

Following the policy recommendations, a panel of young people who participated in the COPING research gave a presentation of their own experiences.  Spearheaded by COPE network member Bryggan, this, for many was the highlight of the day as the young people were given the opportunity to speak directly to the policy makers.  In a world where they so frequently feel invisible, this presentation was incredibly moving as the young people explained their personal experiences to a captivated audience of individuals who can begin to make a real difference at the EU level.

Following the young people presentation was a panel session of experts, including:

  • Verena Knaus, Senior Policy Advisor, UNICEF Brussels
  • Margaret Tuite, Children’s Commissioner Coordinator for Children’s Rights
  • Rachel Brett, QUNO Representative for Human Rights & Refugees
  • Stefan Enggist, World Health Organization (WHO),  Prison & Policy Officer

The panel took a series of questions and engaged with the audience on a variety of issues relating to the research findings and taking the issue further in their own fields.  Margaret Tuite committed herself to including children of prisoners in her remit and Stefan Enggist commented on the importance of recognising male prisoners as fathers and including this in the WHO prison – focused programmes.

Liz Ayre, Director of Eurochips, gave the concluding remarks to the conference, highlighting how the network and its member associations across Europe would take COPING findings, results and recommendations forward.


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