§ Mr. Charles Irving
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what new arrangements are planned for administering the programme of assisted visits to prisoners; when these changes will come into effect; and if those in receipt of supplementary benefit who are currently eligible for assistance will remain eligible under the new arrangements.
§ Mr. John Patten
[holding answer 27 November 1987]: New arrangements are being introduced for the administration of the scheme for assisted visits to prisons by close relatives. A new unit of the Home Office prison department will administer the scheme for England and Wales. Because it would be uneconomic to have a separate unit to administer the scheme for Scotland, the Home Office unit will act as an agent of the Scottish Home and Health Department. For administrative convenience, the new arrangements will begin to operate from 1 March 1988 in respect of visits to inmates in Scotland and from 11 April in respect of visits to inmates in Great Britain as a whole. Applications and payments will be handled by post rather than within DHSS local offices as hitherto. In order to take account of forthcoming changes in the social security system, financial eligibility will be based upon 439W entitlement to income support, which replaces supplementary benefit, family credit or a low-income certificate, but apart from this the principal terms and conditions of the scheme will remain the same.