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The Study
A co-production approach to developing a parenting programme

​There are around 78,000 prisoners in England and Wales: most are men and many are fathers. Young men in prison (age 18-25 years old) are particularly vulnerable as many have faced challenges with mental illnesses and substance misuse, have been excluded from school, experienced a lot of violence, abuse or neglect as children and/or spent time in care. Young people from Black and minority ethnic groups are also over-represented in the prison population and experience additional disadvantage relating to racism, discrimination and low trust in statutory agencies.


These experiences mean parenting their own children can be difficult and imprisonment brings further challenges in connecting and building relationships with children and families. These challenges can have a negative impact on theirs and their child's emotional wellbeing. For many families, imprisonment has a lasting and enduring negative impact. An estimated 300,000 children and young people are impacted by imprisonment. Having a parent in prison is linked to increased antisocial behaviours and likelihood of being involved in the criminal justice system. But providing trauma and culturally-informed support can mitigate these harms and support family health and wellbeing whilst also reducing reoffending and future intergenerational traumas.

Co-producing our study with people with lived experience is core to our approach. We believe research should be inclusive and draw on all forms of knowledge and expertise. We have partnered with the Race Equality Foundation and seek to build on their work on the Strengthening families, Strengthening Communities parenting programme. The programme is designed to promote protective factors which are associated with good parenting and better outcomes for children. It has been successfully delivered by local authorities and community organisations across the country and has demonstrated encouraging positive outcomes for both children and parents (with a large national trial underway). The Race Equality Foundation is supporting all aspects of this study with a particular focus on forging meaningful Public Involvement (PPI) in shaping the study. 

Aims & Methods 

This study aims to assess the needs of an ethnically diverse group of young fathers across in four prisons and co-develop a parenting programme. Specifically, we aim to:

  1. Establish what proportion of young adults in prison are fathers and examine their family networks, current quality of contact, and experiences in prison

  2. Explore the broad holistic needs of young fathers and families effected by imprisonment

  3. Co-design a parenting programme for young fathers in prison 

  4. Assess the uptake, retention, and acceptability of the parenting programme delivered in prison for young fathers

  5. Assess how best to integrate parenting support within usual services for young fathers and their families

Our study will run from April 2022 to June 2024 with four work streams including ​an initial phase of surveying and interviewing young men in prison (WS1) and interviewing families impacted by imprisonment and staff working with these families (WS2). This is followed by workshops to share findings and co-develop a programme to support young fathers and their families (WS3). A final workstream will include delivering a programme for young fathers in prison to test feasibility and acceptability.



















Throughout research, we will engage and consult regularly with our Public Involvement group, which consists of people with lived experience of prison. We also plan to host a few events throughout the study to share our findings and thoughts. This will include an end of study event (tbc).

The Fathers Together study has received UCL university ethics approval and HMPPS NRC approval. 

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