Help with the cost of visiting prison

The Assisted Prison Visits Scheme (APVS) can help you with the cost of travelling for visits.  

Find out more here: www.gov.uk/helpwithprisonvisits 

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.

Am I eligible?

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 listed as Next of Kin on the prison’s IT system, 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, Universal Credit *, Child Tax Credit *, Working Tax Credit with a disability element or Child Tax Credit *, Pension 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 you enter your details online and APVU will ask you who claims for you when they process the claim. (*Income limits apply)

If you are eligible it will NOT affect your usual benefits.

What if I am a prisoner's unmarried partner?

Partners who were living with the prisoner as a couple, in an established relationship immediately prior to imprisonment are eligible.

We weren't living together but we have children together?

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. Contact your local Registrar office for advice on the affidavit. 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.

I need help to make the visit...

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.

How do I claim?

The first time you claim, you will have to fill in a form online about yourself and the person you want to visit. If you have difficulty applying online ring APVU for advice on 0300 063 2100, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

You must keep all receipts for travel costs and get a 'confirmation of a visit form' stamped at the prison.  

Ask in the visitors' centre for these forms. 

What can I claim?

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.

Can I claim before my visit?

You can claim a payment for a visit before you travel. If you are travelling by train you will normally be sent a code to exchange for tickets at the station when you leave.

If you need to apply before you visit, allow ten working days for the APVU to process your claim and send you either a bar code for a payment at a Post Office or payment into your bank account. You must attach all receipts/tickets and a confirmation of visit voucher to your online claim within 28 days of the visit taking place even if it is your last visit.

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.

Full details of expenses covered by the scheme are given in the guide that is available online at www.gov.uk/helpwithprisonvisits

Can I claim for any extra visits?

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. The prison should normally be able to confirm this in writing for the APVU to see. 

Further information

If there is anything else you need to know about the scheme you can e-mail APVU at:
assisted.prison.visits@noms.gsi.gov.uk