HC Deb 21 October 1994 vol 248 cc368-9W
Miss Lestor

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what areas the responsibilities of(a) the Probation Service and (b) the Prison Service cover in relation to the welfare of prisoners' families;

(2) how much public money is spent on the welfare of prisoners' families;

(3) what liaison there is between the Probation Service, the Prison Service and the Benefits Agency in relation to the welfare of prisoners' families.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from Derek Lewis to Miss Joan Lestor, dated 21 October 1994: The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your recent Questions about the welfare of prisoners' families. The welfare of prisoners' families is not the direct responsibility of either Service, although both recognise the importance of prisoners' family ties. I understand that the Probation Service offers help to families when this assists the rehabilitation of the prisoner. The Prison Service seeks to help prisoners maintain their family ties, including the establishment of a Family Ties Consultative Group, and the provision of better visiting facilities. This year funding was increased to help low-income families visit relatives in prison on a fortnightly, rather than monthly, basis. Information about how much public money is spent on the welfare of prisoners' families is not available centrally. Prison Service spending on the assisted prison visits scheme is likely to be in the region of £3.5 million this year. The Prison Service and the probation services liaise closely on a prisoner's release, and the prisoner's family is involved where appropriate. Probation staff are seconded to all prison establishments in England and Wales and provide an important link with probation staff in the community, who make contact with prisoners' families as appropriate. A number of Benefits agency districts provide advice services for prisons within their areas and pre-release talks for prisoners about benefit entitlements. The Prison Service is also actively involved in a forthcoming project by the Benefits agency and the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO), which is specifically directed at the benefit information needs of prisoners and their families.

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