DWP plans to enable UC claims by prisoners nearing release

Department reveals tests are taking place in 15 institutions

Credit: Crown Copyright/Open Govermment Licence v3.0

The Department for Work and Pensions has revealed plans to enabled prisoners nearing their end of their sentence to make a claim for Universal Credit before their release.

Newly published strategy documents reveal that – as part of an ongoing partnership with the Ministry of Justice and its executive agency HM Prison and Probation Service – the DWP is to “test new ways to start a UC claim in custody”.

These tests are to take place in 15 prions with the intention that those methods that are identified as successful will be “rolled out across the prison estate by 2024”.

In response to an enquiry from PublicTechnology, the DWP said that no further information or comment is currently available on the plans to enable prisoners nearing release to make UC claims. More detail will be provided in due course, the department indicated.

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The initiative forms part of a wider programme of “innovation and testing” projects that the DWP, MoJ and HMPPS have committed to undertake over the next four years, and detailed in the latest version of the government bodies’ National Partnership Agreement for employment and welfare support in custody and the community.

Other innovation projects outlined in the agreement, which covers the period of 2023 and 2026, include a commitment to “test ways to work with employers across all sectors, particularly growth sectors and those affected by labour shortages, to help employers enhance their recruitment approach to attract prisoners and prison leavers”.

There will be additional efforts to “test ways to improve male prisoners’ hope, motivation and engagement to secure employment, through [a] Prison Leavers Project, Employability and Skills team”.

The MoJ, HMPPS and DWP will also work together to “recruit education specialists into the senior leadership team of prisons across the estate who are responsible for oversight and delivery of all education, skills and work-based activities, functions and staff, following an initial trial period” in certain ‘Accelerator’ sites.

The newly agreed partnership follows on from and continues the cooperation of the previous agreement, which ran from 2019 to 2022.

Sam Trendall

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