If your relative is in prison or an approved premise, such as bail accommodation, and has care and support needs, they are entitled to an assessment by the local authority where the prison is located to see if they are eligible for support. ‘Care and support’ means needing help with activities such as washing and dressing, or getting around. These changes are due to new laws in the Care Act which came into effect from April 2015. The responsibility to meet care and support needs no longer rests with the council in the area from where someone lived before entering prison.

To be eligible they must be:

  • aged over 18 in a young offender institution or prison
  • residents of an approved premises, such as a bail hostel
  • a person who had to move from their usual home as a condition of bail in criminal proceedings.

Rights to an assessment

Prisoners have the same rights to an assessment as people living in the community, with some exceptions. The assessment will look at the prisoner’s care and support needs and evaluate any risks to their independence and wellbeing if those needs are not met. The assessment will look at:

  • support they may need to help explain their situation
  • any support they currently receive
  • their health conditions and disabilities
  • personal care (eating, dressing, washing, etc.)
  • day-to-day activities, such as preparing food, cleaning and shopping
  • mobility and moving around
  • managing paperwork and finances
  • social relationships and activities
  • work, training, education
  • their living situation
  • their mental health and wellbeing
  • safety and risks

There are some differences in how prisoners are supported compared with people living in the community. For example:

  1. Prisoners will not have the same choice in arranging their care as people not in prison and will not be entitled to direct payments for their care and support. However, this exclusion does not apply to those who have not been convicted of an offence, for example some people in bail accommodation.
  2. Adult social care departments will not be responsible for investigating safeguarding incidents in prisons.
  3. Prisoners will not be able to express a preference for particular accommodation except when this is being arranged for after their release.
  4. Local authorities will not have to protect the property of adults in prison or approved premises with care and support needs

Asking for an assessment

Prisoners can ask for an assessment for care and support needs by speaking to the prison officer assigned to their floor, a health worker in the prison or other relevant worker. They may need to complete a form and the local authority will be contacted to request an assessment to check if they have eligible needs. If they qualify for support, their ability to pay for or contribute towards the cost will also be assessed.

Rights to advocacy

People in prison or approved premises are entitled to the same level of independent advocacy as people in the community. However, this is dependent on the co-operation of the prison in allowing access for independent advocates.

What happens when a prisoner transfers during their sentence

If a prisoner transfers from a prison or approved premises to another local authority area, then the new area will become responsible for their care and support needs. The Care Act states that prisoners should receive continuity of care if they move prisons, meaning that they should receive any care and support they need from the day they arrive at the new prison. The new area may assess their needs before they move.

What happens when a prisoner leaves prison

If a prisoner has an existing care and support plan, when they are discharged from prison, this can be sent to the new local authority in the area they are moving to. This is called a resettlement plan. The new area may carry out a re-assessment later to check their care and support needs in the community.

Making a complaint

If your relative has a complaint about how they have been dealt with by the prison or local authority regarding their assessment or needs, they can speak to a prison officer or write to the complaints department at the local authority.

Where to go for more information

Government factsheets on the Care Act – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/care-act-2014-part-1-factsheets/care-act-factsheets

Information about the appeals process

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/care-act-2014-part-1-factsheets/care-act-factsheets#factsheet-13-appeals-policy-proposals

More information about the assessment process

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/care-act-2014-part-1-factsheets/care-act-factsheets#factsheet-2-who-is-entitled-to-public-care-and-support