In this article
- How social housing/council housing benefits are affected by prison sentences
- Who councils give priority to for social housing
- What you can do if the council refuses your application for social housing
If you rent your home, it may be possible to get housing benefit to help pay the rent if you are in prison, on remand, or permitted Home Detention curfew (HDC). This is usually for a limited period only, depending on how long you are likely to be away from home. You are treated as though you are away from home temporarily, but you must have the intention to return to your home.
If you claim housing benefit, you will need to tell the housing benefit department when you are:
- Remanded in custody
The prison service provides a standard form for each of these circumstances for people who were claiming housing benefit before they were sent to prison and these can also be obtained from the Department for Work and Pensions website.
Are you eligible for benefit?
The demand for social housing is extremely high, so as of 2013 certain new restrictions apply. If you were claiming housing benefit before you were remanded to prison, you must let the housing benefit department know you are in prison. Ensure your prison completes the notification of remand in custody form for prisoners on remand, and that you send it to your local council’s housing benefit department within 14 days.
If you were not claiming housing benefit before you were remanded, for example because you were working and earning too much to qualify, you may become entitled once you are in prison. Write to your council asking for a claim form or ask for one from a prison housing adviser.
Generally councils are obliged to consider applications from anyone who is:
On bail at home – if you have been charged with a crime and are released on bail and allowed to live at home
A prisoner on remand – if you are in custody waiting for a trial or sentencing, or you have to stay away from home as a condition of bail, you might get housing benefit for up to 52 weeks. To qualify, you must intend to return home and be unlikely to be away for longer than 52 weeks (or slightly longer in exceptional cases).
On home detention curfew (HDC) – you are treated as having been released from prison and can claim housing benefit in the usual way for the period you are at home.
Sentenced to prison – so long as the total time you will spend in prison is likely to be 13 weeks or less, including any time you spent on remand. If you have already spent 13 weeks or more on remand, you will get no further housing benefit when you are sentenced. If you have spent less than 13 weeks on remand, you will only get housing benefit if you are released within 13 weeks starting from your remand date.
On temporary release – after you have been sentenced, if you are allowed home on temporary release, you are treated as if you are still in prison and away from home. The time spent at home counts towards the 13 week limit following sentence.
Released – you can claim housing benefit and other benefits as soon as you are acquitted or released. If you have been paid housing benefit while you were in prison, you will need to tell the housing benefit department you have been released. Your prison should use a released from custody form to let your local council’s housing benefit department know the date of your release. You will need to make sure that the completed form is sent to the council as soon as possible (and within 14 days of your release). Don’t delay – it can be difficult to get payments backdated.
A partner or former partner of a prisoner – if you are the tenant or joint tenant of your home, you can claim housing benefit yourself as you are responsible for the rent. If your partner has been sent to prison and isn’t paying the rent on the home you shared, you may be able to claim housing benefit even if you are not the tenant. Housing benefit can be paid to another person if it is reasonable to treat them as responsible for the rent. If your relationship has broken down, housing benefit may be paid to enable you to continue to live in the home if your former partner was responsible for the rent and is not paying it.
Circumstances when you will probably not be eligible to apply for housing benefit
- You will not be entitled to housing benefit to pay for the costs of a bail or probation hostel. If you are renting out your property, you will not be entitled to housing benefit
- If your child is sent to prison, your entitlement to housing benefit may be affected if your child has no intention of returning to your home, or is likely to be in prison for more than 52 weeks. The Prison Reform Trust Offender’s Families helpline provide specialist help for prisoners and their families and if you have specific worries or problems TTV recommends you use this service
- Your housing benefit will stop when you are sentenced, unless the total time you are away from home (on remand and sentenced) is 13 weeks or less
Where to go for further help and advice
- You may be eligible for housing benefits if you are in prison, on remand, or permitted Home Detention curfew (HDC) but this is usually for a limited period only
- The circumstances in which you may not be eligible for social housing such as if you are renting out your property
- Housing benefit can be affected by prison sentences longer than 13 weeks or 52 weeks