HC Deb 10 December 1998 vol 322 c269W
Mr. Dawson

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the assisted prison visits scheme. [63768]

Mr. Straw

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 believe 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.

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