Co-op Bank offers accounts for prisoners

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The Independent Online

Inmates at Forest Bank Prison near Manchester will today become the first prisoners to be given the chance to open a bank account while behind bars, as part of a 12-month pilot scheme by the Co-operative Bank designed to help ex-convicts back into work.

The scheme, to be rolled out across the country next year if successful, will allow prisoners to set up bank accounts during their final days inside, helping side-step the bureaucracy which often prevents ex-cons from getting a bank account.

Co-op Bank says many prisoners have difficulty providing the passports, driving licences or utility bills needed to set up an account when released from prison. Such identification is mandatory due to money-laundering requirements. Having a bank account is often a prerequisite for employers, meaning many former inmates miss out on jobs.

The scheme, part of the Co-op group's community strategy to help prevent crime and reduce the level of reoffending, will get around the money-laundering rules by confirming names and addresses of applicants with prison staff while in jail.

Rob Woolley, the Co-op Bank's director of customer services, said: "We understand access to employment and housing are extremely important factors in reducing the risk of reoffending, but these can only be obtained if ex-offenders have bank accounts."

Debbie Nash, the head of resettlement and employability at Forest Bank, said: "Co-op Bank... has worked with us and understands the issues around reducing the risk of reoffending."