Prisoners to be helped with benefits claims before release

Prisoners in Barlinnie will be helped with benefit claims and jobs skills.

Inmates at Scotland’s largest prison are to be given help in claiming Universal Credit before they are released.

The move is part of a pilot scheme from the UK Department for Work and Pensions in which work coaches will also assist inmates at HMP Barlinnie to develop their skills in a bid to boost their chances of finding a job once they leave.

DWP minister Will Quince, who will visit the prison in Glasgow on Thursday, said the UK Government was determined to ensure former offenders “stay out of prison for good”.

Under current rules, prisoners are unable to claim for Universal Credit until after they have been released from jail, which can delay them in receiving benefit payments.

In the pilot, offenders inside Barlinnie will be able to use a dedicated phone line, if eligible, to get a payment on the day they are freed.

Inmates will have restricted and supervised access to computers, allowing them to fill out the necessary claims forms.

As part of the pilot, Jobcentre staff will also support prisoners by helping them prepare CVs and identifying suitable training schemes or work experience placements.

Similar schemes have already been trialled in Cornton Vale women’s prison near Stirling and at Perth Prison.

Mr Quince said: “Better preparing prisoners for life on the outside helps them unlock employment opportunities once they’re released.

“Without access to work or money some can feel pushed to re-offend, and this pilot aims to take prisoners out of the cycle of crime and get them into work.

“This has benefits for both them and the wider economy.

“Working together with the Scottish Prison Service, the UK Government is determined to ensure ex-offenders stay out of prison for good.”

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