In England and Wales and in force from 8 April 2020, the Social Security (Coronavirus) (Prisoners) Regulations 2020 (SI.No.409/2020) make provision for individuals on temporary release from prison to access means-tested benefits during the period of that release. This is due to end on 31st August 2021.
The measure allows certain prisoners (with two months or less still to serve) to return home on a temporary licence as a way of avoiding the spread of the virus.
The regulations say the temporary release must be "expedient as a result of the coronavirus disease and in such cases as the Secretary of State (ie the DWP) determines."
They will be electronically tagged and can be recalled at the first sign of concern.
NOTE: These Regulations apply to England and Wales only. Northern Ireland have also laid similar Regulations.
In Scotland, justice policy is devolved, and prisoners are released under different powers. Therefore, means-tested benefits can be paid to them as they no longer count as a ‘prisoner’ for benefit purposes and should be able to claim the appropriate benefit if they need to do so.