Skip to main content

Prisons: Mother and Baby Units

Volume 498: debated on Wednesday 28 October 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many children born in custody were subsequently taken away from their mothers while in custody in each of the last 10 years. (295826)

Figures on the number of children born and subsequently separated from their mother while in custody are not collected centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Mothers who have their children with them in custody will be located in a Mother and Baby Unit (MBU). Babies can remain with their mothers in an MBU up to the age of 18 months, and a condition of admission to an MBU is that a separation plan is agreed between the mother and the care team. The child will leave the MBU when it is considered to be in their best interest. Ideally the process of separation will be voluntary, gradually staged and, wherever possible, conducted over a period of time known and clearly understood by all parties involved. The desirable scenario is that a mother and child will leave an MBU together when the mother is released from prison.

Not all mothers who give birth in custody keep their children with them. This may be because Social Services have made the decision in the child's best interests that mother and child should be separated at birth, or because the mother has decided that the child should be cared for by a relative or friend. It may also be because the mother has been refused a place on an MBU, and if this is the case the application process will have involved Social Services and liaison will be maintained with them and the family in determining the future care of the child.