Why focus on finance, benefit and debt…?
Offenders represent a particularly vulnerable group in our society and are more likely than others to face financial problems when entering prison and on release from it. As the Social Exclusion Unit report identified, finance, benefit and debt issues are inextricably tied to many other key factors which exacerbate re-offending.
Ensuring ex-offenders have enough lawfully-obtained money to live on is key to their rehabilitation and to reducing temptation into re-offending, but many face significant problems achieving financial security.
- over 23,000 offenders have financial problems linked to their offending
- 41% of prisoners have a finance, benefit and debt need
- 48% of prisoners have a history of poor financial management and debt
Low incomes, debt, disrupted access to benefits advice and insufficient income on release from prison all add to the problem.
For many, the ‘finance gap’ on discharge from prison presents a significant challenge for many offenders to ‘go straight’ on release. At £46, the discharge grant they receive, coupled with typical delays of two weeks or more to receive benefits can lead to re-offending in order to make ends meet.
Pre-release support in understanding this challenge and post-release support can ensure swift attendance at the Job Centre Plus to apply for the relevant entitlements that will help to ensure a stable transition/integration into the community.
Employment, bank accounts and identification
Many ex-offenders who are offered a job on release from prison experience problems when trying to open a bank account if they do not have the correct identification or paperwork (e.g. proof of address, recent utility bill etc). This can have serious consequences if it means they have to turn down an offer of legal employment as a result.
If you are part of IMPACT or and IMPACT Offender manager you are able to complete an approved introducer identification verification letter for both Barclays and Bristol Credit Union which help to overcome this barrier.
Advice services within prison and on release can provide offenders with the information, advice and support they need to know how to open and manage their own bank account, including using cash machines, debit cards and paying bills.
Improving the financial capability of offenders and the effect on other areas of life.
Timely access to advice can, among other things, prevent or reduce rent or mortgage arrears to sustain an offender's existing accommodation for their release; secure accommodation for an offender on release; ensure access to benefits for the payment of rent and advocate on behalf of an offender if they are refused support from the local authority. Such services can greatly reduce the risk of re-offending.
Many offenders face debt problems; indeed some prisoners are in prison because of debt. Debt can also present problems for offenders and their families both during their sentence and after release. While the pressure of debt can make resettlement within the family more difficult, evidence shows that maintaining stable relationships can reduce the risk of re-offending.
Advice and support with debt problems can make the difference between clearing debt or negotiating with creditors and leaving prison with increased debt.
Money matters have a severe impact on families during the prisoner’s sentence and after release. 60% of families of offenders report that a family member being imprisoned has made them less well off. This could be due to loss of income due to ‘unemployment’ while in prison, loss of child maintenance or even an increase in the insurance premiums they are required to pay.
Access to advice and support could enable offenders to ensure their family is maximising their benefit entitlements and that housing benefit is continued.
Research has proven the link between financial capability and wellbeing. Higher levels of financial incapability are associated with higher levels of mental stress. Other factors linked to financial incapability include lower rates of life satisfaction, and an increased likelihood of being anxious or depressed.
- 72% of male and 70% of female sentenced prisoners suffer from at least two mental disorders, 14 and 35 times the level in the general population respectively.
It makes sense, then, to address financial issues which may be contributing to their poor mental wellbeing. In terms of preventative measures, the same research concludes that moving an individual from very low relative levels of financial capability to average levels had the following positive effects:
- Increased their wellbeing by almost 6%.
- Increased life satisfaction by 2.4%
- Reduced the probability of an individual suffering a health problem related to anxiety or depression by 15%.
If you would like to find out where and how to access service for finance benefit and debt, please use the search functions at the side of this page.
Alternatively, if you are an organisation that provides services under this pathway and would like to be a member of this site, please contact us.
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