What Benefits Am I Entitled To When I Am In Prison?

If you are due to be imprisoned, you might want to think about think about how you or your family will continue to pay rent or mortgage. This guide contains information that might help you on the following topics:

  • State Pension
  • Housing Cost
  • Mortgage
  • Council tax
  • National Insurance
  • Income Tax

Most benefits stop while you are serving a prison sentence and you must tell the Tax Credit Office about prison sentences.

Benefits that stop or are suspended

Your entitlement to benefit stops if you go to prison, apart from:

You’ll stop getting Carer’s Allowance if the person you care for goes to prison or is on remand.

For example you will no longer be entitled to Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). However, you may still be entitled to help with housing costs for a limited amount of time (see ‘Housing Costs’ below).

Benefits while on remand

If you’re on remand, you cannot claim:

You will not be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay or Statutory Maternity Pay from your employer.

You can get help from a benefits adviser at the prison. They can advise you and help to suspend or close down benefits you’re no longer able to claim while you are in prison.

If you are unable to see a benefits adviser ask a member of staff to help you contact Job Centre Plus on 0345 608 8545 or 0800 055 6688.

If you think your Jobcentre Plus office owes you some benefit money then write to them and ask them to send you the money in prison. If you cannot get this money, you can claim it after you are released.

If you were working your family may need to claim benefits while you are in prison or on remand. They should contact the local Jobcentre Plus office as soon as possible.

Your state pension

You will not get your state pension

  • If you have been sentenced.
  • While you are on remand, waiting for your trial or your sentence.

You will get your pension if you are released without being sentenced. You will get the money when you are released.

If you have a partner

  • Your partner will still get their pension when you are in prison unless they get something called dependent’s increase.
  • They should check with their Jobcentre Plus office if they are not sure.

For more information, contact the Pension Service at

National Pension Centre

Tyneview Park

Whitley Road

Benton

Newcastle-upon-Tyne

NE98 1BA

Telephone 0845 6060 265


Can I get help with Housing costs whilst in prison?

You or your family may be able to get Housing Benefit to help pay the rent or mortgage.

It is a good idea to get advice about this as it will depend on whether you have been convicted or are on remand. You should be able to get support from resettlement services when you arrive at the prison.

Housing benefit entitlement

If you were living on your own

  • If you are on remand you can claim Housing Benefit for up to 52 weeks.
  • If you are sentenced you can claim Housing Benefit if you will be in prison for less than 13 weeks.
  • If you were not getting Housing Benefit already, write to your local council to ask for a form to claim it.

You won’t be entitled to claim Housing Benefit if:

  • you’re likely to be on remand for more than 52 weeks
  •  you’re likely to be in prison for more than 13 weeks (including any time on remand)
  • you’re not intending to return home on release
  • you’re claiming as a couple and you’ve split up
  • the property is going to be rented out

Help with rent – what to do

Write to your landlord or estate agent to let them know you are in prison. Tell them

  • How long you will be in prison.
  • Whether anyone will be looking after your home.
  • The address of the prison you are in and your prison number in case they need to contact you.

If you were living with your family and already getting Housing Benefit

  • Write to the Housing Benefit Office to tell them you are in prison.
  • Your family should also contact them to ask to take over your benefits while you are in prison.

If your family needs to start getting Housing Benefit

  • They should contact the Housing Benefit Office to make a claim for Housing Benefit.

If you cannot pay the rent and you cannot get housing benefit

  • You may want to give your home back to the landlord or the estate agent. This may be better than owing them lots of money and getting into debt
  • Your landlord may agree to find you somewhere else to live when you get out of prison.
  • You may be able to find a relative or friend who can pay the rent and look after your home while you’re away. This is called a ‘caretaker’. You should get an agreement from you landlord to do this.

Get advice before you make a decision. You should be able to speak to a member of resettlement staff at the prison.

You can also call NACRO on 0800 0181 259 or Shelter on 0808 800 4444

Your mortgage

If you are unable to pay your mortgage whilst in prison, you should find out if a family member can claim Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) to cover the interest part of mortgage. This may be possible if you lived with your family and they are staying on in the home.

They may be able to do this even if the mortgage is not in their name.

SMI can be claimed if someone also claims:

  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Pension credit

They should make a claim for SMI as soon as possible. This is easier than claiming late and trying to get backdated payments.

If you’re single and on remand and were claiming SMI before prison you should get advice from a benefits adviser in the prison, as you may be able to continue getting it if you meet the eligibility conditions.

However, you cannot make a new claim if you are on remand.

What to do

  • You or your family should write to the local Jobcentre Plus office if you or they want to claim Support for Mortgage Interest
  • Make sure you tell your Mortgage Company, bank or building society you are in prison.
  • Also tell them what you think will happen. For example, if you want to pay the interest part of your mortgage only. Or if you think you will not be able to pay at all.
  • There may be ways to deal with your mortgage arrears and you could try to negotiate with your lender to stop the payments for a bit.
  • If you are unable to pay you may have to consider selling the house.

You might also need to consider the following options:

  • renting out your home. You need your lender’s agreement for this
  • renting out a room in your home

Get advice if you are unable to pay your mortgage while you’re in prison.


Council Tax

Tell your local council you are in prison. You may not have to pay council tax or your family may have to pay less council tax.

You should be allowed to write a letter to your local council tax office, although you may have to pay the postage costs. You may also be able to get help from a member of staff to make a telephone call to the council.

You should make sure they have the address of the prison you are in and your prison number in case they need to contact you.

If you’re single

  • You can apply for your home to be exempt from Council Tax if you’re single, in prison or on remand, and there’s no one living there
  • Your home won’t be exempt if you’re in prison for not paying Council Tax or a fine for not paying it.

If you’re in a couple

On remand

  • You can apply or continue to get joint Council Tax Reduction if your partner’s on remand and is expected home in a year or less.

Convicted

  • You can claim or continue to claim joint Council Tax Reduction if your partner’s expected to be in prison for 13 weeks or less – including any time on remand.

Bills like water, gas, electricity and telephone

You cannot get any help with these while you are in prison.

You should contact the companies to tell them you are in prison. Ask staff for help to write a letter or make a phone call.

You could ask them if you could pay the bills when you leave prison. Or you could ask for the gas, water or electricity to be cut off.

You should make sure they have the address of the prison you are in and your prison number in case they need to contact you.


National Insurance

While in prison you cannot usually pay types of National Insurance contributions called Class 1 and Class 2, which are paid if you are in a job.

However you may be able to pay this in some circumstances, such as where you get paid for doing work in the community.

Whilst you are in prison you can choose to pay a type of National Insurance called class 3. These are voluntary contributions to stop there being a gap in your National Insurance record

If there is a gap in your National Insurance record because you were unable to pay for some time, your pension or bereavement benefit may be affected. This depends on things like how long your sentence is.

You may have been claiming National Insurance credits before you came to prison. You will not receive any National Insurance credits while you are in prison.

You should get advice about your national insurance if you are not sure.

You should be able to speak to a benefits adviser at the prison or get in touch with your JobCentre Plus office or write to:

HM Revenue & Customs

National Insurance Contributions Office

Benton Park View

Newcastle on Tyne

NE98 1ZZ

Telephone 0845 302 1479


Income tax

It is important that you keep a check on anything to do with your tax while you are in prison.

An organisation like the Citizens Advice Bureau may come into your prison and be able to help you sort your tax out.

What to do

  • Contact your tax office if you need help. Tell them your National Insurance Number and reference number if you can.
  • Ask the local tax office if you are not sure which tax office is yours.
  • You will still need to fill in your tax forms if you are sent any. Or if you have any income you need to tell them about.
  • Someone can contact the tax office for you. But you will need to put something in writing to say it is ok for them to do that.
  • If your employer is keeping your job for you while you are in prison, ask them to put this in writing so you have a record of it.
  • You can still get your personal allowances while you are in prison.
  • Your personal allowance is the amount of income you can get every year without having to pay tax on it.

You could contact your tax office to find out:

  • If you can change Children’s Tax Credit money to your spouse or partner’s name, if they are working.
  •  If you can get back tax that is taken from your bank or building society interest. You have to fill in a form to do this.
  • If you can get back income tax you have paid since 5 April, if you have a job and have a document called a P45.
  • Or to get advice if you were working for yourself (self-employed).

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