DRAFT

FINANCE, BENEFIT AND DEBT
PURPOSE
To provide information on the objective set for the NPS, by the Reducing Reoffending National Action Plan, to work to provide improved access to financial services and advice for offenders. To seek feedback from Areas on existing good practice in the local provision of financial advice related services and also to seek views on the specific areas to be considered in the development of national guidance on Finance, Benefit and Debt.

Probation Circular
REFERENCE NO: 09/2005 ISSUE DATE: 7 February 2005 IMPLEMENTATION DATE: Immediate EXPIRY DATE: February 2010 TO: Chairs of Probation Boards Chief Officers of Probation Secretaries of Probation Boards Regional Managers Regional What Works Managers CC: Board Treasurers AUTHORISED BY: Martin Copsey, Head of Community Reintegration ATTACHED: Appendix 1 (part of Word file)

ACTION
Chief Officers and relevant staff are asked to: • Note the contents of this circular • Ensure that a response to the questionnaire attached as Appendix 1 to this circular is submitted to the NPD by 4 March 2005.

SUMMARY
This circular forms part of the NPS’ response to the Reducing Re-offending National Action Plan. We are seeking to develop national guidance on Finance, Benefit and Debt for the National Probation Service and NOMS. This circular aims to both define the specific areas to be considered in the guidance and to obtain feedback from areas on the good practice that has been undertaken. This work phase has a target date of March 2005 for completion. We aim to issue national guidance that will include examples of existing good practice which has been identified, to assist areas in the effective delivery of this work. In addition, we will also feed back to areas an overview of the collated information from the responses to the questionnaire. Target date for the issue of guidance is May 2005. This circular does not cover the issue of Money Payment Supervision Orders (MPSOs). PC04/2005, issued on 10 January 2005, provides guidance in this area and should be read in conjunction with this circular where an offender is subject to a MPSO.

RELEVANT PREVIOUS PROBATION CIRCULARS
PC04/2005 Money Payment Supervision Orders

CONTACT FOR ENQUIRIES
marcus.smart@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk (020 7217 0766)

National Probation Directorate
Horseferry House, Dean Ryle Street, London, SW1P 2AW General Enquiries: 020 7217 0659 Fax: 020 7217 0660

Enforcement, rehabilitation and public protection

BACKGROUND
The NPS involvement in Finance, Benefit and Debt issues has not been considerable or consistent in recent years, but the Reducing Re-offending National Action Plan requires this area of work to be given a higher priority. This circular forms part of the NPS’ response to the Finance, Benefit and Debt pathway. The NPD is working to assist areas to provide improved access to financial services and advice for offenders, to ensure that an appropriate response is provided to any identified financial need to aid resettlement. We will issue guidance to assist areas in developing partnerships with key voluntary and other organisations that specialise in the provision of advice on the management of money. The Social Exclusion Report highlighted the number of prisoners with benefit and debt problems. The report indicated that: • 72% of prisoners were in receipt of benefits before going into prison. • 25% said they needed help with benefit and debts. • 48% had a history of debt. • 33% of prisoners said their existing debt problem worsened in prison. In the short term, no new resources will be available to develop the guidance, so a key theme will be making use of existing resources already available in the community or through existing partnerships. We are seeking the views of areas by 4 March 2005. A response template is attached as Appendix 1. The template sets out the questions used in this circular. Key aspects of the guidance 1) Debt counselling services. These are services aimed primarily at providing both a short and longer term casework provision to offenders who have got into debt. There is an overlap with the section on maximising benefits. Key questions for areas a) Does your area provide this type of service either in-house or in partnership? If so, please provide brief details outlining type of service, usage and costs? b) Does your area promote the usage of debt counselling services available in the community? c) Is there a shortage of this form of service in your area or are there other issues in accessing this type of service? 2) Maximising benefits and income. These are arrangements either in-house or with independent agencies or Jobcentre Plus to enable offenders to ensure that they are receiving the appropriate benefits. There has been a long-term debate in advice circles on whether this service should be provided by independent agencies or through Jobcentre Plus and we are aware of the different approaches taken by areas. Key questions for areas a) Does your area provide this type of service either in-house or in partnership? If so, please provide brief details outlining type of service, usage and costs? b) Does your area promote the usage of services promoting benefit maximisation that are available in the community? c) Is there a shortage of this form of service in your area or are there other issues in accessing this type of service? 3) Money management. These are arrangements that assist offenders to better manage their money. They may be called budgeting or life skills programme. They have been run in the past through Approved Premises and there are a large number of tools available in the community, some linked to basic skills learning. An example is the Basic Skills Agency CD-ROM ‘Merry Go Round - money management skills for everyone’. We have funded the SWing (South West Integration Team) resettlement partnership to explore the development of a money management tool that can be used in custody and in the community. Key questions for areas a) Does your area provide any form of money management learning for offenders? If so, please provide details. b) Does your area use any specific money management tools? If so, please provide details? c) Is this learning linked to basic skills provision? Please give details. 4) Access to bank accounts. Offenders can struggle to open bank accounts. The government universal bank account can be used for the payment of benefits but employers are unable to pay wages into them. The Prison Service is undertaking work to look at access to bank accounts for prisoners. NPD is aware from discussion with areas of local partnership work taking place on promoting bank accounts.

PC09/2005 –Finance, Benefit and Debt

Key question a) Is your area engaged in any work to promote access to bank accounts? Please give examples? b) Have your area identified any common problems with offenders opening bank accounts? Please provide details. 5) Additional information. We are interested in a range of other issues relating to this theme. These include access to loans through credit unions, usage of local schemes that promote better money management etc. Some areas have developed policies in this area of work, have partnership arrangements and have prepared reports to their Boards. If you have an existing policy on finance, benefit and debt or any other written documents in this area we would be grateful if you could please attach copies of these when submitting your response to the questionnaire at Appendix 1. We would also like to hear from areas that have funded this type of work through other means, besides partnership budgets. We are aware, for instance, of some ESF funded projects which have been developed to respond to this need. Again, we would be grateful if you could please submit details of ESF or any other funded work in this area. Returns Please send your returns to Marcus Smart (marcus.smart@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk) by 4 March 2005.

PC09/2005 –Finance, Benefit and Debt

Appendix 1 Name of Probation Area: Contact name and number: 1. Debt Counselling Services
a) Does your area provide this type of service either in-house or in partnership? Yes/No. If so, please provide brief details outlining type of service, usage and costs?

b) Does your area promote the usage of debt counselling services available in the community? Yes/No

c) Is there a shortage of this form of service in your area or are there other issues in accessing this type of service? Yes/No

PC09/2005 –Finance, Benefit and Debt

2. Maximising Benefits & Income
a) Does your area provide this type of service either in-house or in partnership? Yes/No. If so, please provide brief details outlining type of service, usage and costs?

b) Does your area promote the usage of services promoting benefit maximisation that are available in the community? Yes/No.

c) Is there a shortage of this form of service in your area or are there other issues in accessing this type of service? Yes/No

PC09/2005 –Finance, Benefit and Debt

3. Money Management
a) Does your area provide any form of money management learning for offenders? Yes/No. If so, please provide details.

b) Does your area use any specific money management tools? Yes/No. If so, please provide details?

c) Is this learning linked to basic skills provision? Yes/No. Please give details.

PC09/2005 –Finance, Benefit and Debt

4. Access To Bank Accounts
a) Is your area engaged in any work to promote access to bank accounts? Yes/No. Please give examples.

b) Has your area identified any common problems with offenders opening bank accounts? Yes/No. Please provide details.

PC09/2005 –Finance, Benefit and Debt