30,000 prisoners to lose state benefits

No dole money unless you join the government's Work Programme. That's the future for most ex-prisoners under new government plans, to be launched today.

Currently ex-prisoners are able to claim out-of-work state benefits for up to 12 months before being forced to join the Work Programme. It's thought up to 30,000 ex-prisoners a year will be affected.

Crime/JSA connection

What has partly cased the change in policy was the shock discovery that that 30% of JobSeeker's Allowance claimants were in possession of a criminal record. Jobcentre Plus staff will now begin the benefit process from inside in prison, so prisoners are inducted into the Work Program before release.

If they refuse to join the program, dole benefits will be withdrawn. It's thought that of those leaving prison, 75% of offenders claim one out of work benefit within two years. "Offenders claiming JSA on release from prison in 2008 spent 40 per cent more time on benefits over then next three years than the average claimant," claims the Department of Work & Pensions.

£5,600 cash

The changes are on the back of a lengthy project between the Department for Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Justice to share information about prisoner releases and benefit claims. Work Programme providers will receive a fee of £5,600 if they succeed in placing a former offender into work, and help them stay in employment for over two years.

"The Ministry of Justice," said a Department of Work and Pensions press statement, "is also preparing to pilot the integration of a reoffending outcome payment into the Work Programme, which will further improve employment outcomes, as part of a wider programme of pilots to reduce reoffending on a payment by results basis."

It's also thought that such a programme will reduce re-offending.

The life outside

AOL Money contacted the Prison Reform Trust, an organisation that works for a fairer penal system, for a response. "Far too many people leave prison jobless, homeless and ready to offend again," said Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, in a statement.

"Now the Work and Pensions and Prisons Ministers have set up a system that cuts through bureaucratic red tape, takes account of the challenges of life outside and enables former prisoners to meet them. This important first step should be followed by a plan to support the many disabled and elderly people on release from jail."


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