- Are there any organisations that can store my belongings while I’m in prison?
- What support is available to me while I’m in prison?
- How do I keep my home while I’m in prison?
- Where will I live on release?
- Will my probation officer sort out my accommodation for my release?
- I have outstanding debts. What should I do while I’m in prison?
- Can I open a bank account while I’m in prison?
- What support can I get for addictions while in prison?
- Are there any training options available to me while I’m in prison?
- How can I improve my chances of getting a job on release?
- I feel as though I am being treated unfairly in prison. Where can I get legal advice?
- I’m feeling nervous about my release from prison. Where can I get advice or support?
- Can I get any funding for education or training courses on release?
- Is there any funding available for clothing when I’m released?
- Will I get a discharge grant when I’m released from prison?
- Where can I get advice about any benefits or funding that I, or my family, may be entitled to?
Are there any organisations that can store my belongings while I’m in prison?
If you live in social or privately rented accommodation and you hope to keep your tenancy while in prison, you can check with your landlord whether they are happy for a nominated person to look after your tenancy. Note that this may affect your housing benefit entitlement.
If your landlord does not agree to this, you can ask a friend or relative to check in on your home from time to time to keep an eye on your property and belongings.
If you are losing your home because of going to prison, there are no specific charities or organisations that we are aware of that can store your belongings. There are plenty of commercial storage companies but these are usually expensive, so it is better to ask friends or family if they are able to help you.
What support is available to me while I’m in prison?
Being in prison can be a very difficult time, but life when you come out will be easier for you if you use your time in custody in a useful way. Not facing problems on the inside won’t make them go away on the outside.
Many prisons should have specialist services available that can help you with a range of issues including:
- Debt and finance
- Health and wellbeing
- Drug and alcohol problems
- Education, training and employment
- Children and families
Although support should be available, it is very important to have realistic expectations and bear in mind that there may be a limited number of officers or advisers looking after the needs of a large number of prisoners.
It is important that you try to do as much as you can for yourself:
- Find out what services are available in your prison – ask at your induction or ask an officer on your wing if you’re not sure.
- If you want to arrange an appointment with a particular service, put in a general application to the relevant officer or adviser. If you need to see someone urgently, it is important that you explain clearly on your application why your request is urgent.
- If you’re not getting the help you need, or if you’re not sure where to get help, contact Nacro’s Criminal Record Support Service on 0800 0181 259.
How do I keep my home while I’m in prison?
You might be able to keep your home while you’re in custody, but you must act quickly:
- Make an appointment to see a housing adviser in the prison as soon as possible.
- Contact your landlord or mortgage company and ask them to send any letters for you to the Always include your name and prison number.
- If you were receiving Housing Benefit or getting help with paying Council Tax, tell the Tax Credit Office about your change in circumstances. As a prisoner you may not have to pay Council Tax and your partner or family may not have to pay the full amount.
- If you were claiming Universal Credit(UC) as a single person before you went to prison, you can usually continue to get the housing costs element for up to 6 months if you are; on remand or sentenced but likely to return home within 6 months
Click on this link to find out about housing benefits rules for prisoners if UC has not been rolled out in your area.
It is difficult to get housing on release if you are behind with your rent when you start your sentence. If you owe rent, it is important to take action as soon as possible:
- Write to your creditors and tell them you’re in custody. Ask them to freeze interest and late payment charges.
- Arrange an appointment with the housing adviser in your prison to sort out your rent arrears.
Where will I live on release?
It can be difficult to find somewhere to live in time for your release as many housing providers have long waiting lists. There should be advice and support available in your prison, but it is also your responsibility to make enquiries and let the advisers know about your accommodation needs as this may affect your eligibility for Home Detention Curfew (a tag).
Here are some things you can do:
- Make sure you start making enquiries at least six months before your release date (or if you are serving a short sentence, as far in advance of your release as possible).
- Contact Nacro on 0800 0181 259 (from prison) or ask a family member or friend to contact Nacro on 0300 123 1999 for information on your housing options.
- Find out who is responsible for providing you with housing advice and support in the prison and try to make an appointment. They will try to see you as soon as they can, but it may take some time.
- Contact your local council. See here for more information.
If you are coming towards the end of your sentence and have nowhere to live on release, write to your local council and ask for emergency housing. See here for further information. For a sample letter, see here.
Will my probation officer sort out my accommodation for release?
It may be a condition of your release from prison that you live in Approved Premises (formerly known as probation or bail hostels). Currently, there are just over 100 Approved Premises hostels providing 2,000 bed spaces. If it is a condition of your release to live in Approved Premises, your probation officer or offender manager will make the referral. Most people stay in Approved Premises for six months to one year.
Only a minority of released prisoners are required to live in Approved Premises upon release. If you are not required to do so, it is your responsibility to get advice about where you will live upon release. Your probation officer or offender manager might be able to give you some advice about your housing options and can make referrals on your behalf to appropriate housing providers, but they do not have a legal duty to house you.
If you need advice about your housing options on release, you can find more information here or you can contact Nacro on 0800 0181 259.
I have outstanding debts. What should I do while I’m in prison?
If you have any debts it is vital you take action while you are in prison. If you don’t, your debts will get bigger because you will be charged late payment fees and interest.
Contact the people and organisations to which you owe money and tell them you are in custody. You will need to let them know that you have no income (or not much income) and so you cannot keep up your repayments. Ask if they will freeze the interest or agree to smaller repayments or no repayments until you are released.
To avoid anyone taking court action against you, you will need to work out a repayment plan which you can afford and then propose this to them. If you have already been threatened with court action, you should still send a letter explaining your situation. An example letter template can be found here.
You might be able to make an appointment with a debt adviser or other relevant support service within the prison. If not, you can contact a debt support organisation or give permission for a family member or friend to contact them on your behalf.
Can I open a bank account while I’m in prison?
Unless there is a specific scheme operating in your prison, it can be difficult to open a bank account while serving your sentence.
If you are close to release, it is a good idea to find out what forms of ID the bank(s) will accept so that you are ready to open an account as soon as possible upon release.
If there is no scheme operating in your prison and you have some time before your release, you could ask a resettlement officer or adviser to help you get a list of local bank branches and find out if the prison has a relationship with any specific bank. You can then write to local banks with the following information:
- Explain that you are serving prisoner and tell them your expected release date
- Explain that you need a bank account to get a job upon release
- Inform them that you are intending to actively use the account once released
What support can I get for addictions while in prison?
Looking after yourself is important. If you do not sort out any addictions you have before release, you will find it difficult to survive on welfare benefits, keep to a sensible budget and have a stable life on the outside.
Find out what support is available in the prison. Some prisons offer treatment for addiction issues. Even if you are in recovery from your addiction, it is worth getting in touch with a support agency on the outside so that you have somewhere to turn to if things get tough. Find details of support organisations here.
Are there any training options available to me while I’m in prison?
There are a wide range of training options in prison, although the opportunities available to you will depend on which prison you are in and how long you will be there for. Ask your education department what is available.
Most prisons offer at least a Level 2 in literacy and numeracy, so if you do not have these qualifications it is a really good idea to take advantage of these classes.
You can also study at a range of levels up to university degree and even postgraduate level through distance learning. These courses will be more expensive, but could be of great benefit to you depending on your desired career path. For information about funding options, have a look at the Prisoner Funders Directory. If you are a prisoner in Wales or Northern Ireland, it may be worth speaking to the Head of Learning (HOL) at your establishment to find what forms of further education are available and how they can be funded.
How can I improve my chances of getting a job on release?
Encouragingly, there are increasing numbers of large and small employers that welcome applications from people with criminal records. Generally, employers will most likely have concerns about any gaps in your employment history and that you have an unspent criminal record. You will need to be prepared to offer as much reassurance as you can that you are not a risk to the people you will be working with and you are not at risk of reoffending.
To improve your chances of getting a job on release, use your time in custody in a useful way:
- Take advantage of learning, training and employment opportunities that may be available
- Find out what support may be available in the prison and make use of it
- Attend any job clubs or CV/interview skills workshops that are available
- Go to any employment fairs in your prison and speak to local employers
- Think about preparing how you will disclose your criminal record to prospective employers
There are not many employment schemes that are specifically for people leaving custody, but you can access general employment support services that help jobseekers to find work. If you are entitled to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance on release, you might be referred to a specific programme (e.g. the Work and Health Programme) by your Jobcentre adviser.
You will not lose your right to benefits just because you have a criminal record. It is important to remember that employment support advisers are there to help you, but if you do not tell them about your criminal record, it will be very difficult for them to provide you with the full support that you need to find a job.
I feel as though I am being treated unfairly in prison. Where can I get legal advice?
The Prisoners’ Advice Service (PAS) offers free legal advice and information to prisoners throughout England and Wales regarding their rights, conditions of imprisonment and the application of the Prison Rules. PAS pursue prisoners’ complaints about their treatment in prison by providing advice and information and, where appropriate, taking legal action.
Contact PAS on 0845 430 8923 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m feeling nervous about my release from prison. Where can I get advice or support?
It is completely normal to have mixed emotions about your release. Perhaps you are worried about how you will be received by family members or friends, about where you will live or how you will sustain yourself financially. The following services may be able to help you:
- Prison Chaplain
All public prisons in the UK have a prison chaplain who is there to provide pastoral support. See if you can arrange a one-to-one meeting with the chaplain to discuss your feelings and any concerns that you have.
- Rescue of Dignity
Offers through the gate support for newly released prisoners through a mentoring programme. They also run a pen-pal project and provide support to families.
Tel: 020 7686 6000 or email email@example.com
- Prisoners Advice and Care Trust
Offers emotional support to prisoners and their families.
Tel: 0808 808 3444
Can I get any funding for education or training courses on release?
There are various funding options available to help you cover the costs of education or training courses upon release:
- Professional and Career Development Loan
If you are aged 18 or over and have been living in the UK for at least three years before the course starts and have an acceptable credit rating, you may be eligible to apply for a professional and career development loan. A participating bank will offer between £300 and £10,000 towards a course that is on the approved list.
For more details and to make an application, please see here.
- 19+ Advanced Learner Loan
If you are aged 19 or over, you may be eligible to apply for an Advanced Learner Loan to help with the cost of your chosen course. The course must be a Level 3, 4, 5 or 6 (i.e. A levels or graduate). You will not be subject to a credit check when applying for this loan.
For more details about eligibility and to make an application, please see here.
- CFO Discretionary Access Fund
If you are aged 18 or over (or 16 or over in the North West, West Midlands and London) and you will be released on licence, you may be able to access the CFO Discretionary Access Fund. This fund can be used to help individuals overcome specific barriers to work, such as travel (to an interview or to a job), to pay for childcare or required equipment. Some short-term vocational courses may also be funded.
To find out whether this fund is available in your area, speak to your Offender Manager or
Offender Supervisor/Manager. More information about this fund is also available here.
There are a number of other grants that you may be able to apply for, depending on your circumstances. For further information, please see The Prisoner’s Funder Directory (from page 65 onwards) or contact Turn to Us.
Is there any funding available for clothing when I’m released?
The Prison Rules (23(6)) state that ‘A prisoner may be provided, where necessary, with suitable and adequate clothing on their release. The cost/process of issuing suitable clothing is down to the prison establishment.
Prisoners are not given a payment to purchase new clothing. However, a number of prisons in England and Wales will usually have a clothing store which holds a stock of second-hand clothing which has been left or donated by previous prisoners. If it is found that a prisoner does not have any suitable clothing available for release, it is open to them to apply to the store for appropriate garments. Prisons may also purchase basic clothing from a local supplier.
There are a number of organisations that offer funding towards emergency clothing and/or clothing for interviews. Some of these are region-specific, so it’s best to check the Prisoner’s Funder Directory for more information about what might be available in your area.
The Salvation Army also provide clothing to former prisoners. Check with your local branch to see if they are able to assist.
Will I get a discharge grant when I’m released from prison?
If you are aged 18 or over, you can apply for a discharge grant before you are released. Try to do this at least four weeks before your release date. In England and Wales, the discharge grant is a set fixed rate of £46 and is intended to assist you in your first few days.
Where can I get advice about any benefits or funding that I, or my family, may be entitled to?
Turn2us is a national charity that can help you to gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and support services that you may be entitled to. Visit their website here, or contact their helpline on 0808 802 2000 (9am–8 pm, Monday–Friday).