The denial of prisoners’ pension rights is an issue about which we are increasingly out of step with the rest of Europe. Former prisoner Paul Sullivan reports on the support of the National Pensioners Convention.
There are now over 2,400 prisoners aged over 60 in England and Wales, including 493 over 70 (as at August 2008). Most of these prisoners would have paid enough National Insurance contributions to enable them to receive a full State Pension; however under section 113 of the Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 these people are refused their pension. The Act says that anyone in ‘lawful custody’ loses their pension right. The only other exception used to be pensioners in hospital, but that has now been removed leaving prisoners as the only section of society that has their pension right removed.
The National Pensioners’ Convention (NPC), Britain’s biggest pensioner organisation representing over 1,000 local, regional and national pensioner groups, with one and a half million members, believes prisoners should not lose their pension rights. In a statement to Inside Time, Neil Duncan-Jordan, National Officer of the NPC stated:
“The NPC considers the state pension to be a right rather than a benefit and as it is currently based on a contributory principle, should be paid to prisoners according to their contribution record in the same way as to any other contributor. The NPC would go further and argue that the disqualification provision in section 113 of the Contributions and Benefits Act should be withdrawn from the statute book. We have been arguing for some time that persons living outside the UK should receive the state pension based on their contributions and up-rated annually in the same way as those living in the UK. This is the first category for disqualification. The second category for disqualification is imprisonment or detention in legal custody. We can see no argument for withholding the state pension on these grounds as;
Therefore we urge the removal of the whole of the disqualification provision in section 113 of the Contributions and Benefits Act.”
Elderly prisoners have little provision made for them by the Prison Service, as set out by Charles Hanson in the January issue of Inside Time. In some prisons, if they refuse to work past retirement age they are classed as ‘unemployed’. Similarly, in certain prisons they may get a ‘retired rate’ but remain locked up twenty or more hours a day. The rate of pay for prisoners who are long-term sick or of retirement age who are not working is £3-25p per week.
PSO 4460, which covers prisoners’ earnings, states in Para 5 that:
“Prisoners of state retirement age are not normally required to work. They may work for standard rates of pay if they choose, provided there are suitable activities available in the establishment”.
“Prisoners of state retirement age can, however, be required to participate in other purposeful activity as identified by the sentence / training plan or learning plan. They should be paid at the standard rate for these sessions. Unreasonable refusal renders them liable to be classified as ‘unwilling to work’ and therefore not to receive any pay”.
One of the crazy situations elderly prisoners may find themselves in is that, according to Para 2.8 of PSO 4460, if the retired prisoner ‘earned over the tax threshold’ (maybe with work pension, investments etc) he would be liable for National Insurance contributions whilst, at the same time, being barred from receiving the benefits paid for by the contributions.
It is now exactly 100 years since the first ‘Old Age Pension’ was drawn under the Old Age Pensions Act of January 1909. In those days, the pension was five shillings (25p) and recipients had to be over 70 years old: anyone who had been in prison during the preceding ten years was barred from receiving it. We live in a more enlightened age and now, a century later, it is time for the issue of elderly prisoners’ pensions to be remedied and due respect shown to those who may not only have contributed to their pension throughout their lives, but may also have fought for the country in conflicts in order to keep us free from repression and allow power to the very politicians who now seek to impose further financial punishments on them. Both the Prison Reform Trust and Age Concern have expressed dismay at the continual denial of prisoners’ pension rights.
It is not only the prisoner himself who may suffer. Many women of this age have no entitlement to a state pension in their own right and so, if their husbands in prison have pension rights removed, wives at home, guilty of no crime, also suffer. As Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern England points out; ‘England, which has a higher number of elderly prisoners than most European countries, is increasingly out of step with Europe on this issue and the continued denial of pension rights can only harm reintegration on release’.
How much would it cost? Based on a minimum pension of £54.35 per week, the total cost would be under £7 million each year. The cost per prisoner would be just £2,800 – equivalent to the cost of keeping them in prison for three weeks.
The Prison Service might huff and puff about how it would be paid, but that is simple; either into the prisoner’s own bank account or monthly into the prisoner’s Private Cash account and transferred into ‘spends’ at the prevailing rate; dependent upon IEP.
Comments about this article
1/11/2010 nicola neumangiving old age pensioners in prison a pension would afford them some sort of dignity and independence especially those who have no one to give them anything or care for them this would stop them living on the streets and eating out of dustbins when thwy are released. All they ask is for a bit of respect in their old age
3/1/2011 Jean Tucker -i believe taht giving the pensioners their rightful pensions whist in prison would cut reoffending and reduce their need for other state benefits and health services.
13/12/2012 Nick BanningtonI think prisoners should be given their pension to which they have made contributions, but only after the cost of their accommodation, currently running at around £700/week, has been deducted from it..
26/1/2013 Duncan R -With even more pensioners now in prison the amount of money saved by not paying these pensions by the government must be increasing. Does anyone know where the pensions of these prisoners goes if it is not going to the pensioners themselves? Is the money going to the prison service?
25/7/2014 Taiwo Olaniyi -I agree prisoners should be able to receive the back pay of their pensions once they are out of prison, as these are contributions made by the Prisoners, while they were working.
12/11/2014 Paul Hanson -Is this a correct ?
Whatever happened to the idea of a 'through the gate' service?
Month By Month
Book Review - Buddhism, Eight Steps to Happiness By Dieter Glogowski
A Poca-lypse now?
Appeals against conviction - conduct of trial lawyers
Bob Woffinden writes …
Diversity … bring it on!
Education failing to meet needs
Lags and Wags
Current page: Pensions for prisoners
Probation officers – friend or foe?
Rehabilitation a distant second
Further protection for non-smokers
Outbound Email Service for Prisoners - Update
Education Survey Results
Prison psychologists are breeching Code of Ethics and Conduct.
When childhood dies
Justice Select Committee
Update on the Association of Prison Lawyers
Fraud Act 2006… the new offences
Book Review - My word is my Bond, The autobiography by Roger Moore
November 2014 Headlines
A steadily increasing prison population in Europe
Links to the outside
Courts and TV
A risky business
IEP and maintaining innocence
Doing Bird - and why it’s not working
Police bail and the innocent
Repatriation to Ireland
The best years of his life
House of Lords debate about IPPs
Month by Month - November 2014
Butler Trust Awards
The Harris Review
Scotland the brave
The lonesome death of Giovanni Cocozza
Inside Drink and Drugs News
More people using drugs
Spotlight - Police and Crime Commissioners
Home Detention Curfew Scheme
From over the wall
Love is my religion
Fair trials - are they still possible
The prison lawyer and the auditor
Parole? Who, what, where and when
Jonathan King writes
New! Volume 5 of
is now available!
A collection of poems by prisoners of all backgrounds.
Availabe to buy from this site! Volume 1,2,3 and 4 are also still available and you can SAVE by purchasing bundles!
The Useful Services for Prisoners scheme from insidetime provides discounts, vouchers and other benefits from USP Group Members for Prisoners, their families and legal advisors. Click the image above to read more about it.
You can subscribe to insidetime Newspaper and get the paper each month delivered to your door!
Advertise your business or solicitors office to a highly defined target audience.
Inside Time has produced a number of books and publications you can purchase online.
All contact info for the Operations office and the Editorial Team.
Our site map page contains links to all pages on the insidetime site.
We have a number of external websites which you may be interested on our Links Page.
Everything you need to know about visiting people in prison; procedures, opening times, directions etc.
Comprehensive information about each prison regime; lock down times, facilities, healthcare etc.
*NEW* Detailed information about IRC - Immigration Removal Centres.
Various pages of information for help and support organisations and networks for those in custody as well as recently released. Also information for friends and family.
This grants and funding pdf document aims to meet the need of prisoners and ex-offenders for accurate, up to date information on the supplementary funding available to prisoners.
Information on rules & regulations used throughout the prison service.
The Glossary of Prison Related Terms explains what all the acronyms and terms stand for with prison related matters. Includes links to external sites to further explain things.
We have produced many Prison Related Fact Sheets inc. Legal Fact Sheets, Parole Fact Sheets and Other related information.
You can search our solicitor database for listings of solicitors in your area that provide the services you require.
You can search our barrister database for listings of barristers in your area that provide the services you require.
You can search our address database in many ways to retrieve contact information for all those elusive addresses you need in a hurry.
This document provides details of leading training providers who offer sound professional training.
Inside Information has produced a number of books and publications you can purchase online.
Our site map page contains links to all pages on the insideinformation site.
Use the Contact Us Feedback form to send us suggestions, plus our address and phone numbers.
insidejustice was launched in July 2010 to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice.
Full introduction is on the insidejustice homepage