Report (5th Day)

Part of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – in the House of Lords at 10:15 pm on 20th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Ramsbotham Lord Ramsbotham Crossbench 10:15 pm, 20th March 2012

My Lords, I shall again be brief, because we had a good discussion on this in Committee. I was very glad that the Minister told the House about the advance plans to use the work programme as the primary vehicle for help and support so that all prison leavers who claim jobseeker's allowance will enter the work programme from the first day of release from prison. The background to this is the present situation where people leave prison with a release grant of £46 and then have to live for up to three weeks before their claim, having been processed by the jobcentre, comes through. This amendment is intended to prevent that, because it is the most terrible cause of reoffending. However, the comments in Committee dealt with jobseeker's allowance, and mention was made of universal credit and the ability to use payment on account to cover the gap before a universal credit payment came through. What was not mentioned in Committee was the progress on all the other claims that might be processed or bid for by prisoners. Mention also was made of work being done with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that this was looked at.

My proposal might seem prescriptive but it is based on observation of the cause of considerable misery when people are released. It suggests that the jobcentre staff currently working in every prison should be required to process the applications and entitlements of every prisoner while they are in prison so that proper plans are made. When they leave they would not have to start doing work that could have been done already, and thus, we hope, it will prevent them reoffending, as seems to happen when people find themselves without the means to support themselves for too long before their benefits come through. The purpose of this amendment is therefore to tidy up the discussions that we had in Committee, and to ask the Minister to ensure that the work with the Department for Work and Pensions is in progress.