HL Deb 10 December 1998 vol 595 cc115-6WA
Lord Evans of Watford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they will report on the assisted prison visits scheme. [HL303]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn)

The assisted prison visits scheme exists to help prisoners maintain contact with their close relatives and partners. The scheme was established in 1988. To qualify for assistance in meeting the costs of travel to and from the prison the visitor must be in receipt of a low income benefit as administered by the Benefits Agency.

The scheme does not distinguish between married and non-married partners, but financial assistance is extended to same-sex partners only at the expense of support for a prisoner's family members. In consequence, some prisoners, including young offenders, do not receive visits from parents or close relatives.

The Government are keen to encourage all prisoners to maintain family ties, and believes that same-sex partners should be treated fairly by the Prison Service. Therefore, both partners and relatives will, in future, be able to receive assistance with the cost of visiting, within the qualifying conditions of the scheme.