Help with the cost of visiting prison
The Assisted Prison Visits Scheme (APVS) can help you with the cost of travelling for visits.
If you are receiving benefits or are on a low income, you may be eligible to claim help with travel expenses when visiting a prison from the Assisted Prison Visits Unit (APVU).
Visitors' centre staff and volunteers will be pleased to offer you information and help to fill out forms.
You are eligible to claim if you are:
A close relative of the person you wish to visit, ie, wife, husband, civil partner, mother, father, son, daughter, brother or sister, adoptive/step/half brother/sister, step-child or step-parent, or you are their sole visitor, ie, the only person who is visiting them. If you claim as a sole visitor, the APVU will confirm with the prison that the person has not been visited by anyone else in the six weeks prior to your visit.
In receipt of Income Support, Income-Based Job Seekers Allowance, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit with a disability element or Child Tax Credit, or hold a Health Benefits Certificate. You must send in your Health Benefits Certificate or tax/pension credit award notice the first time that you claim. Note: if someone else is claiming for your enter their details on the claim form.
If you are eligible it will NOT affect your usual benefits.
Partners who were living with the prisoner as a couple, in an established relationship immediately prior to imprisonment are eligible.
If this is the case, you may qualify for help by acting as an escort to the child(ren). You should send in proof that the prisoner is the parent of the child(ren) with your first application form.
This can include a birth certificate or medical card or child benefit award or any official letter that confirms the child's surname is the same as the prisoner's.
If not, the prisoner can sign an affidavit stating that they are the child's parent. A special declaration form is available from the APVU. The prisoner should sign the declaration in the presence of a justice of the peace or magistrate or a commissioner for oaths, or a practising solicitor or a notary public.
There is a possibility that one of the above may be a serving member of the prison's Independent Monitoring Board (formally Board of Visitors). The prisoner should seek advice from the wing manager.
If you are aged under 18 or over 75 or in receipt of Disability Living Allowance or have a medical condition which makes travelling difficult you may quality for the travel expenses of companion to be paid.
The first time you claim, you will have to fill in a fairly detailed form giving information about yourself and the person you want to visit. APVU forms can be obtained from the Prisoners' Families Helpline - 0808 808 2003.
They are also available at the prison, the prison visitor's centre, other prisoners' family support organisations, your local citizens' advice bureau, or ring APVU on 0121 626 2206 for a form.
You will not have to fill this form in every time you claim. APVU will send you a shorter repeat claim form with your giro cheque to use for subsequent visits.
You can claim for one visit every 14 days up to a maximum of 26 a year. Claims must be made within 28 days of the date of the first visit.
You can claim for payment for up to 2 visits before you travel. If you are travelling by train you will normally be sent a warrant to exchange for tickets at the station when you leave.
If you need to apply before you visit, allow ten working days plus 5 days for delivery by post for the APVU to process your claim and send you the giro cheque in time. You must send all receipts/tickets and a confirmation of visit voucher to APVU within 28 days of the visit taking place even if it is your last visit. Use the prepaid envelope that they send you (the confirmation of visit voucher is sent to you by APVU. It must be completed at the prison).
APVU will pay for travel to and from the prison by public transport or private motor vehicle. They will not pay for taxis unless the fare is less than the public transport alternative or there is no public transport available.
If you are away from home for five hours or more, you can also claim a set meal allowance. Overnight allowances may be paid at the discretion of the APVU. Before incurring any expenditure check with the APVU to confirm they will contribute to an overnight stay.
APVU will contribute towards the cost of childminding if it is not appropriate for the children to visit, but the child minder must be registered with the local authority. Also included is breakfast/after school clubs run by the local authority.
Full details of expenses covered by the scheme are given in the booklet that accompanies the claim form.
Extra visits where you do not need a Visiting Order will be covered. This may include a special family day, children's day or where you are involved in a case conference or sentence planning. Include a short note with your application to tell the APVU or endorse the form "special visit".
If there is anything else you need to know about the scheme you can write to the APVU at:
Assisted Prison Visits Unit
PO Box 2152
The APVU customer helpline 0845 300 1423 is available between 10.15 to 11.45 and 14.15 to 15.45 Monday to Friday. You can phone from the Visitors' Centre and NEPACS staff and volunteers will help you with this.
If you have a text phone for people with hearing difficulties, please phone 0845 304 0800. Information also available on audio cassette and in foreign languages.
Information is also available from the APVU on audio cassette and CD, in Braille, in Welsh and in a range of foreign languages.