This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
New research published today by the Department for Work and Pensions investigates the Prisoner Finance Gap (PFG) - the gap between leaving prison and gaining sustainable income (usually benefits) - in four prisons in the North East of England.
The report presents the findings of a literature review and semi-structured qualitative interviews with nine strategic and policy stakeholders, 34 staff from prison, probation, voluntary sector agencies and Jobcentre Plus, 51 prisoners (21 of whom had follow up interviews post release), and an online survey. The research was carried out between April 2009 and May 2010.
The research aims were to investigate the systems and processes in place to address the financial exclusion of prisoners across four different prison types in the North East, to look at the extent to which pre-release inputs impact on financial inclusion following release, to evaluate the relationship between the prison and Jobcentre based elements within the prisons, and to identify obstacles and barriers to the take up of inputs.
The main findings are:
Financial issues, compounded by low levels of awareness and a reluctance to seek advice, constituted a significant problem for the vast majority of prisoners and ex-prisoners.
There are a number of initiatives in place to address some of the financial issues identified. Prisoners and ex-prisoners were positive about much of the contact they received in these prisons. They indicated that Freshstart had facilitated early contact with Jobcentre Plus but had not closed the PFG and there were still issues around timing. There was no impact reported by ex-prisoners from financial capability training or signposting to other services.
The Finance, Benefit and Debt pathway was seen to have a lower priority and fewer resources than some of the other resettlement pathways.
Good relationships between all agencies involved in prisoners’ resettlement on release are key. Joint activities between DWP and MoJ are facilitating cross-departmental working. Some Voluntary and Community Sector organisations reported that the overlap in remit between DWP and MoJ could impede joined up working. Strategic initiatives such as Integrated Offender Management have potential to create stronger linkages between pathways and organisations. At operational level staff relationships and communication were effective.
Notes to Editors:
The DWP Research Report, ‘Investigating the Prisoner Finance Gap in four Prisons in the North East’ will be published on 14 December 2010.
The research was carried out on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions by The Hallam Centre for Community Justice. The research was carried out between April 2009 and May 2010.
The authors of Research Report 715 are Linda Meadows, Simon Feasey and Dr Hayden Bird.