Covid-19, poverty, and criminalisation

The COVID-19 pandemic in the UK has had a dramatic impact on household debt and financial security. The DWP has seen applications for Universal Credit soar since lockdown was imposed in March. As of the start of May, 1.8 million claims had been received since 16 March – six times the usual claimant rate. Local news reports have also shown that more people than ever are applying for council tax reductions and are struggling to keep up with payments. For example, reportedly 1 in 8 Solihull residents are behind on council tax payments. This, however, is not a new problem. The national debt charity StepChange found that council tax arrears were the single most common debt for the 635,000 new clients who contacted them in 2019. As the precariousness of household finances worsens as the result of the economic hit of the coronavirus pandemic, it is more important than ever that we protect those most financially vulnerable.

Due to the Corona virus pandemic, the government introduced The End of Custody Temporary Release scheme (ECTR), stating, at first, that about 4,000 prisoners would be eligible to be released early because of the dangers of infection spreading and affecting both prison staff and inmates.  However, by 14 May, the government had released only 78 people. By 7 August, 275 prisoners had been released: 52 of them were categorised as ‘vulnerable prisoners, pregnant women or mothers with babies’. The ECTR scheme was paused at the end of August 2020.Charity and church leaders have called for the Government to revive the ECTR scheme for prisoners during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic:

Compassionate ROTL scheme

The Compassionate Release on Temporary license scheme, introduced to enable temporary releases of pregnant women, mothers and babies, and the clinically extremely vulnerable remains in operation.

To read more about the ROTL scheme, click Here

To read IPC’s briefing paper , click Here

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