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Housing benefit for prisoners

Housing benefit can sometimes be paid to prisoners. You may get housing benefit if you are remanded into custody, sent to prison or given home detention curfew.

Housing benefit when you are sent to prison

Housing benefit can sometimes help pay your rent if you are in prison, but only for 13 or 52 weeks.

You are treated as though you are away from home temporarily.

You can only get housing benefit if you intend to return to your home.

You'll need to make a new claim if you are not receiving housing benefit already. 

Inform your council

If you are already claiming housing benefit you must tell your housing benefit office if you are:

  • remanded in custody
  • sentenced
  • released

It's your responsibility to tell the council about your change in circumstances.

Prisoners on remand

You can get housing benefit on your normal home for up to 52 weeks if you intend to return within this time and are in custody awaiting trial or sentencing.

You are not entitled to housing benefit if you sublet your property while you are away.

Ask your prison to complete the notification of remand in custody form and send it to your housing benefit department within 14 days.

If you were not claiming housing benefit, you may be entitled to make a claim when in prison.

Sentenced prisoners

You can get housing benefit on your normal home for up to 13 weeks if you are serving a prison sentence.

You must:

  • intend to return home
  • be unlikely to be away for more than 13 weeks

If you have already spent 13 weeks or more on remand or awaiting sentence, you won't receive any more housing benefit when you are sentenced.

The Prison Service should be able to tell you your earliest expected release date. The council will use this date when calculating when you are likely to return so you must tell them of your change in circumstances if your release date changes.

The Prison Service should use a change of status or custodial sentence form to confirm to the council that you have been sentenced or released.

Temporary release

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.

Home detention curfew

You can claim housing benefit as usual if you are released from prison on an electronic tag.

You can claim at the same time as claiming out of work benefits when you are released or make a separate claim if you are working.

You will not need to reclaim if your housing benefit has been paid whilst you were in prison and you spent less than 13 weeks in prison.

On bail

You may be entitled to housing benefit to help pay your rent on your normal home for up to 52 weeks if your bail conditions mean you have to live elsewhere until your court hearing.

This applies if you are living in a bail hostel or anywhere else away from your home.

On release

You can claim housing benefit and other benefits as soon as you are acquitted or released from prison.

If you were paid housing benefit while you were in prison, you must tell the housing benefit department you have been released.

Ask your prison for a 'released from custody' form. Use this to tell your housing benefit office your release date. Make sure the completed form is sent to the council within 14 days of your release.

You can make a new claim for housing benefit along with your claim for other benefits.

Keep your prison discharge form as this can help prove your identity.

Partner or former partner of a prisoner

You can claim housing benefit if your partner is in prison even if you are not the tenant of your home.

You can also claim if your relationship has broken down and your ex is not paying the rent because they are in prison.

If a household member is sent to prison

Housing benefit can be restricted based on the size of your household and the number of bedrooms you have.

In council and housing association housing this is known as the bedroom tax. In the private rented sector it affects the local housing allowance rate you receive.

You keep the same bedroom entitlement if your dependent child is sent to prison as long as they have an intention to return home within 52 weeks.

You keep the same bedroom entitlement if an adult member of your household is sent to prison but will be returning within:

  • 13 weeks if they are sentenced
  • 52 weeks if they are on remand awaiting trial or sentencing

You must inform the housing benefit office of a change in circumstances if a household member is sent to prison and:

  • does not intend to return
  • will not be released within the time limits

If you don't report the change it can lead to an overpayment. This must be paid back.

More advice for prisoners

The Prison Reform Trust and the Offenders' Families Helpline provide specialist help for prisoners and their families.

Find out more from Shelter about prisoners and housing rights


Last updated 25 Apr 2016 | © Shelter

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