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Prisoners Release

Volume 488: debated on Tuesday 24 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice pursuant to the answer of 12 January 2009, Official Report, column 552W, on prisoners: release, how long on average it took a prisoner eligible for jobseeker's allowance upon release to receive that benefit after release in the last 12 months. (251164)

I have been asked to reply.

The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the acting chief executive of Jobcentre Plus, Mel Groves. I have asked him to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Mel Groves:

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking how long on average it took a prisoner eligible for Jobseeker's Allowance upon release to receive that benefit after release in the last 12 months. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

In answer to your specific question, I regret that this type of information is not routinely collected and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

Whilst information about prisoners' claims is not collected specifically, they are included in the overall Jobseeker's Allowance claim processing target. At the end of December 2008, our Jobseeker's Allowance claims clearance rate was an average of 10.4 days, against a target of 11.5 days. Whilst January figures have not yet been confirmed, we expect them to be at a similar level.

All prisoners being released who wish to claim Jobseeker's Allowance are also able to use the Freshstart process. Freshstart involves pre-arranging a New Jobseeker Interview to claim Jobseeker's Allowance at the prisoner's home Jobcentre Plus office for as soon as possible after they are released. The customer normally has an appointment with a Jobcentre Plus Adviser within 3 days of leaving prison. The process helps to speed up the receipt of benefit and aims to ensure that the offender engages with the Jobcentre at the earliest opportunity to allow them to gain appropriate support.

In addition, those serving shorter term sentences can also take advantage of the Rapid Reclaim Process. This service is available if a prisoner reclaims benefits within 26 weeks of their last claim and their circumstances have not changed. There are simpler and shorter forms to complete and processing the benefit is eased.