The information in this section explains what happens to your welfare benefits if you go to prison or get placed on remand in the United Kingdom.
In fact, many of the same outcomes also apply if someone in your family (e.g. your partner or child) ends up serving a prison sentence.
So, if you are claiming benefit payments or other entitlements, they are likely to change (or stop altogether) if you, your partner, or any of your children:
- Go to jail or spend time in a young offenders’ institution.
- Goes on remand (i.e. held in custody while awaiting the trial).
Benefits and Prison
So, what is going to happen to your welfare benefits while ‘you’ are in prison or on remand?
In most cases, a benefits adviser from the DWP will help you suspend or close down the ones that you can no longer claim (see below).
What if it is ‘your partner’ or ‘your child’ in prison or on remand? In this case, you would need to inform the department that pays your benefits, to find out whether:
- It is going to affect your claim for existing benefits.
- You can claim for other benefits and entitlements instead.
Providing you still satisfy the entitlement conditions in your own right, you should get your benefit payments even if your partner has gone to jail.
Which Benefits Stop When You Go to Jail?
In most cases, going to prison means you will lose your automatic rights to benefits. They will either stop completely or be suspended, such as the Industrial Injuries Disabled Benefit (IIDB).
Even so, as a prisoner you should still be able to get:
Note: You would stop receiving the Carer’s Allowance if the person you are caring for goes to prison or is placed on remand.
Claiming Benefits While on Remand
The welfare benefits that you cannot claim while you are on remand (e.g. waiting for your trial) include:
Furthermore, being remanded in custody will exclude your employer from having to pay your Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP).
Having Benefit Arrears Paid to Someone Else
You can make a written request to have your benefit payments paid to another person. But, it only applies to arrears owed to you when you get sent to prison or go on remand.
Providing you are not convicted, you should be able to get back any benefit arrears for:
- Contributory Employment and Support Allowance
- Incapacity Benefit
The process for claiming benefit arrears differs if you get convicted. In this case, you may get up to one year of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit after you are released.
Claiming Benefits on Release from Prison
You will be able to make a new claim for benefits straight after leaving prison – providing you still qualify. In some cases, you may also have entitlement for other support when someone leaves prison (financial and practical).
Note: A ‘release on temporary licence’ (ROTL) would not qualify you for the Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).
Housing Benefit While in Prison
Generally, being in prison or on remand means you should still continue getting Housing Benefit. Likewise, imprisonment does not disqualify you from making a claim for Housing Benefit for the first time.
When You Cannot Claim Housing Benefit
Certain situations result in a loss of right for prisoners to claim Housing Benefit, such as if you are:
- Likely to be on remand for a period of more than fifty two (52) weeks.
- Likely to remain inside a prison for a period of more than thirteen (13) weeks (including any time spent on remand).
- Not intending to return home after being released.
- Claiming as a couple and you have since separated.
- Claiming for a property that will be rented out.
Making a New Claim for Housing Benefit
If you have done time inside a prison, you must meet at least one of these conditions to make a new claim for Housing Benefit. So, for example you:
Claiming While You’re On Remand
Single persons can claim Housing Benefit payments for a period of up to fifty two (52) weeks while on remand. But, this only applies if the return home will occur within one (1) year.
Couples can claim joint Housing Benefit for a period of up to 52 weeks while one of the partners is on remand (for a year or less).
Housing Benefit payments can continue for a period of up to 52 weeks if your child is on remand (for no more than a year).
Claiming While In Prison
Single persons can claim Housing Benefit for a period of up to thirteen (13) weeks if the return home occurs within 13 weeks (including time spent on remand).
Couples can claim joint Housing Benefit for a period of up to 13 weeks if the partner will return home within 13 weeks (including time on remand).
What if your partner goes to prison and they are the one claiming the Housing Benefit payments?
In this case, the other partner may be able to make the claim instead. As a rule, you would need to add your name to the tenancy agreement (unless already added).
What if your child is the one in prison? You should contact your local council authority to check whether your entitlement for Housing Benefit will change.
Rules for Council Tax Exemption and Reduction
People who are in prison or on remand do not count as adults living in a property for the purpose of Council Tax exemptions and reductions.
Single persons can apply for a home exemption from Council Tax (providing no one else lives in it).
Note: Council Tax rules do not exempt a home if the reason for the prison sentence is failing to pay a Council Tax bill (or a fine because of non payment).
What if you are part of a couple and your partner is on remand? In this case, you can apply for, or continue to get, joint Council Tax Reduction (providing your partner will return home within one year).
You can claim, or continue claiming, joint Council Tax Reduction if your partner will not be in prison for more than thirteen (13) weeks (including time on remand).
Making a New Council Tax Claim
What if your partner will be absent for more than thirteen (13) weeks and you will be the only adult living in the property? In this case, you would get a discount of 25% off your Council Tax bill.
Benefits and Prison: Tax Credits
Certain changes (e.g. being incarcerated) will affect your Tax Credits. As a result, you must inform the Tax Credit Office if you will be sent to jail. The staff will then provide you with further information and advice.
Working Tax Credit (WTC)
As a single person, your claim for Working Tax Credit will stop whilst you are:
- On remand
- In prison
- Sent to a young offenders’ institution
In some cases, you can continue claiming Working Tax Credit if you are part of a couple and your partner is the one sent to prison (for no more than one year).
You would need to be working a certain number of hours per week to meet the qualification criteria (excluding work done while serving a prison sentence or on remand).
Child Tax Credit (CTC)
In most cases, Child Tax Credit would stop for a single person with children if they go to prison. The Tax Credit Office would make a decision based on the length of your prison sentence, and whether:
- You still have responsibilities for looking after your child and still have regular contact with them.
- Your child is also in prison with you.
If you cannot get it, the person who is looking after your child (or children) might meet the eligibility criteria to claim Child Tax Credit instead.
What if you are part of a couple and one of the partners goes to prison? In this case, Child Tax Credit would continue if only one of the partners goes on remand or to prison.
If it is your child that goes to prison, you would still get Child Tax Credit providing their prison sentence is not more than four (4) months. But, you would not get it if they will be spending more than four months in jail.
Benefits and Prison: Child Benefit
You will be able to continue claiming Child Benefit even during the time you spend in prison, providing:
- Your child is with you (read more about pregnancy and childcare in prison).
- The child you claim for is living with someone else and you are paying an equivalent amount to them.
Note: You can make a request to have the Child Benefit payments transferred to another person. But, if the local council is looking after your child, the payments will stop after a period of eight (8) weeks.
What happens with Child Benefit if your child goes to prison or is on remand? In this case, the payments would cease after a period of eight (8) weeks.
But, if the court clears your child of the offence you would get the arrears.
Are you helping to bring up your partner’s (or someone else’s) child? If so, you might get Child Benefit and the Guardian’s Allowance during the time they spend in prison.
Benefits and Prison: Support for Mortgage Interest
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) only offers Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) as a secured loan against your home. Thus, SMI is no longer one of the welfare benefits available for claimants.
Furthermore, prisoners cannot get a Support for Mortgage Interest loan. But, in some cases the partner of someone in jail may qualify for making a claim instead.
Note: The partner’s name does not necessarily need to be on the mortgage as a prerequisite for making a claim.
SMI Loans for People On Remand
Providing you meet the conditions for eligibility, (e.g. getting Pension Credit or Income Support) single persons who are on remand may continue getting their SMI loan payments.
But, if you are one of the partners in a couple, you cannot get an SMI loan while you are on remand (or Income Support). Your partner should be able to get certain welfare benefits and housing costs.
Note: The DWP produces easy to read guides that explain what it is, who can get it, and how to apply for Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI).