HC Deb 23 October 1973 vol 861 cc972-3
4. Mr. Norman Lamont

asked the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied with the co-ordination of the Home Office and the Department of Health and Social Security in the provision of social services for discharged prisoners.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. The Departments are working closely together in a review of the arrangements for discharged prisoners.

Mr. Lamont

Is my right on. Friend aware that the present discharge grant for prisoners has not been adjusted since 1964 and that it is quite inadequate for prisoners who have to obtain accommodation in London and other major cities? Is he aware that many discharged prisoners, contrary to what the Home Office believes, cannot find accommodation without making a down payment, and cannot get social security benefit without first having an accommodation address? Should not our whole social security system be designed to help discharged prisoners to adjust to the world rather than place on them all the pressures that lead to their going straight back to prison?

The Prime Minister

I agree with the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question. It is not entirely true that the grant has not been reviewed since 1964, because an additional grant of £4 has been introduced to help a discharged prisoner find accommodation. What is happening now is that the Home Office and the Supplementary Benefits Commission are carrying out an urgent review jointly to see what fresh arrangements should be made. As regards the problem of accommodation, there are 1,700 places in 166 hostels which receive Government grants towards their running costs for this purpose, and the number of places is now increasing at the rate of 260 a year. In the year ended 31st March 1972, which is the latest date for which we have overall figures, the average occupancy was only 74 per cent., and it is thought to have been somewhat lower since then There may be explanations for this, but the number of places in hostels for discharged prisoners is being increased.

Mr. Dell

When will the review be completed? This matter should be settled shortly. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, for example, even the grant of £4 is not the whole of the story because, if a prisoner on relief has more than £5, £1 is knocked off for every £1 above £5? The situation should be changed rapidly.

The Prime Minister

The Departments will complete this review as quickly as possible, because the problems are now realised.

Miss Quennell

Will my right hon. Friend agree that, while this country has often been much preoccupied with penal reform, the after-care of discharged prisoners has often been uninspired and unimaginative in the extreme?

The Prime Minister

I think that there may be some truth in that. As I have said, the Departments are now reviewing the whole question, and we shall do our best to see that matters are improved.

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