Prisoners' pension rights

For all older people reliant on the state pension, the system can be unfair and inadequate.  In common with much mainstream policy, the needs of people in prison, and people who have been in prison, have been overlooked.  

Age Concern has worked with the Prison Reform Trust and other organisations on a number of initiatives relating to older people in the prison system.  We share a serious concern about the inadequacy of arrangements, ranging from the lack of appropriate services and support in prison itself, to the lack of help to ensure that people who leave prison in older age are given the opportunity to contribute as valued members of society.

Download the Prison Reform Trust's paper on prisoners' pension rights here

The state pension is integral to these concerns.  The attached response highlights how older people deprived of any independent income and unable to work in prison, may be unable to afford the extras which constitute quality of life in a prison environment.  We also share concerns about the impact a stay in prison has on someone's ability to contribute to the state pension.  In effect their punishment may be carried on into older age in the form of inadequate retirement income, potentially affecting their rehabilitation into the community.  The response also highlights that prison can have a financial impact on family members, and we are worried by the fact that adult dependents can be disadvantaged.  These are usually wives who are not entitled to the state pension in their own right despite years of service caring for families, and who believed they could rely on their husbands for financial support.  These women are innocent of any crime.

Calls for improved state pension rights for prisoners are likely to be controversial but these are issues that need to be considered particularly in the context of a growing number of older people in prison. England and Wales also appear to be out of step with most other European Union countries. While Age Concern has not necessarily taken a position on the issues set out in this report we believe that this is a subject that needs to be debated.  We therefore welcome this response as providing a very useful contribution and starting point for that debate. 

Gordon Lishman is director general of Age Concern England