Finances when you leave prison
Getting a grip on money issues before you leave prison will help make for a smooth exit.
If you’ve got time on your hands, sorting out your finances when you leave prison is always a good thing. Get help with this before you leave by contacting the resettlement team in your prison.
Short-term financial support
When you leave prison you should get back all the belongings you came in with. If your clothes don’t fit you anymore or aren’t suitable for the weather, you might be able to get a Budgeting Loan to help you buy some. If any of your belongings have gone missing, you can make a complaint and might be able to go to court for compensation. You may also get:
- A travel warrant – This will pay for your travel back home (to anywhere in the British Isles or Republic of Ireland).
- A discharge grant – If you’re wondering how much money do prisoners get when released, UK legislation does include a discharge grant of £46 to help cover your living expenses during your first week out of prison. However, you must apply for a discharge grant at least four weeks before your exit. Also, most prisoners under 18 won’t get a discharge grant.
Benefits on release
Depending on your age and circumstances you may be able to claim:
- Universal credit
- Jobseeker’s allowance
- Any back payments of benefits which you’re owed from before you went into prison
- Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction to help you pay for housing costs
- Other benefits, including Employment and Support Allowance (for people who find it hard to work due to a disability or health condition
You’ll need a national insurance (NINO) number to claim benefits. If you don’t have one, check out this website to learn how to register for one. You’ll also be issued with a B79 form when you’re released. Keep this safe as it will help prove your identity when claiming benefits.
Benefits for those on temporary release or home curfew
If you’re on temporary release from prison, you can’t normally get benefits for the time you’re away from prison.
If you’ve been released from prison early on a tag, you can claim most benefits in the normal way. If your curfew means you can’t claim Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit because it limits when you’re available for work or the places you can travel to, you can apply to court to get the conditions of your curfew changed.
Do you owe money for benefits?
If you were claiming benefits before prison, you should contact the agency you were receiving them from about your change in circumstances. If you didn’t do this, you may have to pay back the money they paid you while you were in prison. Depending on what benefit you were getting, contact:
- The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
- Your local council, if you were getting Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit
- HM Revenue and Customs, if you were getting Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Child Benefit or Guardian’s Allowance
You’ll usually need a bank account for your benefits to be paid into. You may not be able to open an ordinary bank account but you should be able to open a basic bank account. If you can’t get one, ask for your benefits to be paid into a card account at the post office.
Check out our advice on choosing a bank account here.
Paying back debt
For many people, debt will get worse while they’re in prison. That’s why it’s important to talk to your creditors as soon as possible and explain your situation. Ask them to freeze the interest on the debt, pay them back in smaller instalments or even cancel it altogether.
If you’ve delayed contacting them your debt will grow because of late payment charges and interest. They could even take you to court for this, which will make it difficult for you to get credit when you leave prison and may even mean you lose your home.
Finance for education and employment
You might want to get some training when you leave prison to help you with job opportunities. Jobcentre Plus can give you information about colleges and courses, and you could even get some money to help pay for certain courses.
If you’re going to apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit, it can be arranged for you to have an interview at your local Jobcentre Plus office as soon as you leave prison.
Thanks to Citizens Advice Bureau for help with this article. If you’re still looking for more advice and information:
- Nacro offers advice and support if you have a criminal record, and can they can help you when it comes to telling employers. Ring their helpline on 0300 123 1999
- Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
- Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.
By Holly Turner
Updated on 30-Jun-2021
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