When you go to prison
Normally, if you are in prison or detained in legal custody, your entitlement to benefit stops and any arrears owed are automatically paid to you.
If you think the amount of arrears paid is wrong, you can check it by contacting, or arranging with a friend or family to contact, your local Jobs and Benefits office.
Before you are released from prison
Staff in the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) as well as the Northern Ireland Association for the Care & Resettlement of Offenders (NIACRO) can complete forms and arrange advance or urgent appointments to help you claim Social Security benefits, for example, Universal Credit.
Appointments can also be made with voluntary organisations, such as advice centres.
If you are claiming benefit in advance, you can ask for appointments to coincide with home leave and the office will try to accommodate you.
What to do when you are released
As well as benefits advice, our advisers can give you information about Finance Support, including Discretionary Support. A Discretionary Support grant may help you financially when you are first released and begin to live independently in the community, provided you satisfy the eligibility conditions.
You cannot claim Discretionary Support until after you have been discharged from prison or a similar institution.
To help find employment you should contact your local Jobs and Benefits office immediately.
Steps 2 Success
Steps 2 Success is an employment programme to help you build the skills and experience you need to find and keep a job. The programme provides a personalised service and is tailored to meet your needs to help you into work.
The Steps 2 Success programme is closed to new entrants. You can only take part in the programme if you were scheduled to be on it before 18 March 2020.
The LEMIS+ Project helps unemployed people overcome the issues that may be preventing them from finding and keeping a job.
The service is provided by local community employment organisations in the following areas: Lisburn and South Down, North Down and Ards, Newry and Mourne, Armagh, Banbridge, Portadown, Lurgan and Craigavon.
LEMIS+ is also available on an outreach basis throughout Northern Ireland to people with a common employability barrier such as:
- individuals with a history of drug or alcohol abuse
- leaving care
These organisations offer an impartial and confidential advice and support service to help people find a job which best suits their skills and abilities.
If your partner is in prison
If your partner is in prison you may still be entitled to benefits as long as you qualify in your own right.