Generally 'prisoners' are not entitled to Universal Credit. Universal Credit Regulation 19 Para 1(b) - see below.
However, some can still get help with their rent whilst away from their home...…….
Who is a 'prisoner'?
For UC purposes a claimant will count as a prisoner if they are:
- Detained in custody - whether pending trial, pending sentence, on conviction, or sentenced by the court; or,
- On temporary release in accordance with the provisions of the Prison Act 1952 or the Prisons (Scotland) Act 1989 (also called home leave or ROTL - release on temporary licence).
But they do not count as a prisoner if they have been detained in hospital - they then count as a hospital detainee and cannot get UC (Universal Credit Regulation 19 Para 1(c)).
DWP Guidance (Chapter E3 of the Advice for Decision Makers) states that the definition 'prisoner' does NOT include (amongst others) anyone: released on licence, on a home detention scheme, on a suspended sentence, or sentenced to community service.
Which 'prisoners' can claim UC?
That depends on whether they are part of a couple - in which case their partner can continue to claim / make a new claim, or whether they are single.
Single 'prisoners' are not entitled to make a new claim for UC - ie if they were not getting UC before becoming a 'prisoner' they will not be able to claim - even those on remand.
- they were getting UC prior to becoming a a 'prisoner', and
- they are going to be away from home for less than 6 months, and
- their UC award included a Housing Costs Element to help them pay their rent -
then their UC can continue - but when assessed, their maximum UC award would just include a Housing Costs Element (ie no Standard Allowance or any other Elements). See below for more details.
Many claimants find that when they become a prisoner, even though they meet the rules for getting UC to help pay their rent (see below), their Universal Credit is stopped completely i.e. that their housing costs do not continue. The DWP seem to believe prisoners aren't entitled to UC, full stop!
If a claimant is affected by this they should challenge the decision not to pay the Housing Costs Element of Universal Credit - by requesting a Mandatory Reconsideration of the decision on their journal. We have devised a letter for you: UCHC8.