Bank aid will give prisoners new start

A Co-operative scheme is helping to reduce re-offending.

Sending bank managers to prison may simply sound like justice but a scheme by the Co-operative Bank doing just that is helping rehabilitate prisoners and reduce re-offending rates.

In fact, a study by Liverpool John Moores University showed that the Co-operative Bank's "accounts for prisoners" scheme has helped reduce re-offending rates by around a third.

The study analysed the behaviour of a group of 107 prisoners who opened an account with the bank before being released from HMP Forest Bank prison in Salford in October 2007. Only 39 per cent of those who opened a bank account have re-offended: the national re-offending rate of prisoners serving sentences of less than 12 months is 59.9 per cent.

"Bank accounts are not the panacea for reducing re-offending rates but as this research shows, it can have a positive impact," says Paul Jones of Liverpool John Moores University. "It is clear that bank accounts are an important element in enabling ex-prisoners to become valuable members of society and other banks should consider following the pioneering work carried out by the Co-operative Bank."

How does the Co-op's scheme work? It's simple. The bank sends staff into prisons to help prisoners set up a bank account and get a cash card before they are released.

The Co-op set up the scheme in 2006 in conjunction with Kalyx, which manages the Forest Bank prison. Since then, the scheme has been extended to 30 prisons across the country.

Giving prisoners access to a bank account before they leave prison is crucial. It helps them get a job and somewhere to live, as Justice Minister Maria Eagle MP points out. "Prisoners' ability to open and run an account to manage their finances can prove key to their resettlement in society once they are released, and access to a bank account is a core component of this.

"Without access to an account, finding a job or accommodation is often much harder for prisoners. In offering bank accounts to prisoners in nearly 30 prisons, the Co-operative Bank scheme is helping the National Offender Management Service make a significant contribution to prisoner resettlement and to reduce re-offending rates," says Eagle.

It's not just about helping them with financial management; having a bank account also helps them psychologically by giving them a big step back into normal society, rather than leaving them outside the mainstream.

"These bank accounts play a huge part in helping to reduce re-offending," says Steve Taylor, Kalyx's deputy director at HMP Forest Bank. "By aiding social inclusion, prisoners are enabled to feel part of the wider community, therefore minimising the chance of them returning to crime."

As our case study, former prisoner James, notes (above, right), "It's amazing how much of a difference getting a bank account makes. It's allowed me to feel part of society again."

Prisoners are offered basic bank accounts under the scheme. These are the accounts launched by the Government some five years ago to reduce social exclusion. They are simple accounts with a cash card but no overdraft. They allow people to set up direct debits and standing orders but they don't allow you to go into the red.

As such, they are great for people not terribly good at managing their money, as there is no temptation to overspend or get into financial trouble. Most major banks offer the accounts but, generally, people have to seek them out. The main banks don't promote basic accounts as there is no profit to be made from them.

The Co-op is, as far as I can find out, the only bank actively to go out and seek suitable customers for basic bank accounts. More than 3,500 prisoners have opened a basic bank account under the "accounts for prisoners" scheme since it was launched three years ago. And now the bank wants its rivals to join in and help more prisoners across the country.

"We cannot tackle this important issue alone," says Neville Richardson, chief executive of the Co-operative Financial Services. "Therefore, I would encourage other banks to play their part in providing accounts for prisoners so all inmates can have this opportunity."

No other current-account provider has yet signed up for the scheme. When questioned about what it could do for prisoners with no job or home – usual requirements when opening an account – the Nationwide says it may open accounts for prisoners who have a letter from a probation officer or social worker to prove their identity.

It also says that using a prison as a place of residence may not mean that a prisoner is turned down for an account. "We recognise that some prisoners may find it hard to prove their permanent place of residence," says a spokesman. "Where an application does not immediately fulfil our identification criteria, we will assess it on its own merits."

The spokesman points out that the Nationwide supports six charities which help young offenders and the families of prisoners through its charitable foundation.

Similar questions put to the high-street banks prompted puzzlement. "I haven't been asked such a question before," one told me. However, all said that they wouldn't treat prisoners any differently from anyone else when it comes to opening an account.

However, Barclays has launched a pilot project with the UK National Association of Reformed Offenders in three prisons in the east of England. Since November 2008 it has opened 154 accounts for prisoners.

The Co-operative's scheme is to be applauded, but it would be simple for others to join in and offer similar account-opening facilities at other prisons. It could help countless prisoners get a foot back into normal society, which could be a big step towards rehabilitation.

But it could also go some way towards repairing the banks' tarnished reputation. Taking positive action towards helping disadvantaged members of our society rather than squeezing every last penny out of them would be a start. Let's hope the banks are listening.

Set up and go: A former prisoner's life-changing account

James [not his real name] was released last year from Forest Bank prison, and now has a full-time job and lives with his partner and first child. He says opening a bank account before his release helped him make a fresh start.

The 34-year-old had two spells in prison for minor offences, but now says he won't be going back. "Getting a bank account from the Co-operative has given me a sense of self-respect and allowed me to feel part of society again. Every time I go into a shop and use a debit transaction I feel good about myself. It is amazing how much of a difference it makes."

He really noticed that recently when returning to a store he'd previously been caught shoplifting in. "A shop assistant was following me around, probably because I'd shoplifted there in the past. But this time I wasn't and when I went up with my card and paid, I had a smug look on my face. It's funny but it is a benefit of the card; I got a buzz from it."

His troubles began almost a decade ago when he lost his job. He ran up debts, couldn't repay his mortgage and lost his home. James explains: "It was a disaster, really, once I lost the job and the house."

For James, getting the bank account meant becoming part of society and achieving financial security. Used to handling cash, he says the account has helped him to manage his money. "In the past, money burnt a hole in my pocket. Now I quite like managing the account properly. I only earned the minimum wage but it feels good to be able to pay bills – in many respects, I am no different to anyone else now, and that is a good feeling."

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
News
i100
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

    £24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant Birmingham

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £Competitive: SThree: SThree Group and have be...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?