When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Claiming benefits from prison

If you’re receiving benefits you need to tell whoever manages your claim that you’re going into prison. Most of your benefits will stop while you're in prison, but you might still be entitled to get housing benefit, depending on how long you'll be in prison for. 

Stopping your benefits

Contact the Social Security Agency by telephone or in writing to inform them that you have been imprisoned. Ask your family, friends or prison staff to do this on your behalf if you can't make the call. Your entitlement to most benefits will stop on the day you go to prison.

You'll have to pay back any benefits you got while in prison if you didn't tell the correct organisations that your circumstances have changed. The fact that you didn’t know you were supposed to tell someone won’t protect you from having to pay the money back.

If you were claiming benefits as a part of a couple, one of you has to inform the Social Security Agency of the change in circumstances and your partner will need to make a new claim.

Claiming housing benefit from prison

If you have not claimed housing benefit before going to prison, you will need to fill in a housing benefit form.  If you're already receiving housing benefit, you will need to write to the Housing Executive to explain that your circumstances have changed and you are now in prison.

Your Sentence Manager, Probation Officer, NIACRO Benefits Adviser or the prison's Housing Advice Development Worker will be able to assist you with your housing benefit claim.

Limits on length of housing benefit claim

Remand prisoners can claim housing benefit for up to 52 weeks and sentenced prisoners are allowed to claim if they know they will be released within 13 weeks of going into prison.

Sentenced prisoners who will be staying in prison for more than 13 weeks are not entitled to housing benefit while serving their sentence. 

Prisoners who have been released on licence and then recalled for a suspected breach of the licence may be entitled to housing benefit for a certain period while on recall.  People who have been recalled to prison are treated neither as sentenced prisoners nor as being on remand.  Instead, they may be entitled to housing benefit for a maximum of 13 weeks as they are temporarily absent from home. The person's entitlement to housing benefit may stop before this 13 week period ends depending on what decision the Parole Commissioner makes and on when this decision is made.

Speak to a housing adviser in prison or an advice agency to find out if you are entitled to housing benefit while you are in custody. It is very important to have your benefit situation assessed as soon as possible after you go into prison.