When people go to prison their families suffer in a multitude of ways. They are vulnerable to poverty, debt and housing disruption when their loved ones are sent down, yet the financial penalties continue even once their partners or children are released home afterwards.
Insurance is a key example of how completely the financial exclusion of ex-offenders can ripple out to affect their families too. Gordon Dewar, managing director of the Salvation Army General Insurance Corporation, is speaking out about “excessive” insurance penalties and the impact it can have on the finances and protection available to households.
Commenting in the organisation’s news publication The War Cry, he warned that insurers treat innocent family members as guilty by association.
“This can result, for example, in a wife either not being able to insure the family home, because of her husband’s record, or being asked to pay much higher premiums or increased excesses,” he says. “If the husband is struggling to find work, the bigger bills put the whole family under extra pressure.”
If the family can’t afford those higher bills then they are left without protection. A fire or flood or burglary could leave them with nothing, amplifying their vulnerability.
The issue is not just for partners; parents of wayward teenagers can find their household insurance rises, with insurers blaming the risk that they might bring home criminal connections.
And the families of sex offenders are penalised by either insurance being refused or the premiums hiked, on the grounds that the home is vulnerable to vigilante attack.
“That innocent families have to suffer is an inequity,” Dewar argues. “They should not have to pay for crimes they have not committed. They have suffered enough.”
Not that niche
This may seem a niche financial concern but it is one that affects hundreds of thousands of households in the UK. There are 9.2 million people in the UK with criminal convictions and one in three men has a conviction of some sort by the age of 53.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has reported that families of prisoners face financial disruption as well as additional costs – many send weekly cash to their loved one to buy phone cards, for example.
Speaking to Parliament, the Under-Secretary for Justice Andrew Selous has slammed insurers for “unfair” treatment of these vulnerable families.
“I am concerned that offenders’ innocent family members are being unfairly and wrongly penalised by insurance companies either withdrawing insurance cover or making it prohibitively expensive,” he says.
“In some cases, this is happening while the offender is in prison, and it is hard to see how there could be an additional risk to the insurer with regard to the family home in such cases.”
The situation is not as prolonged as it has been in the past. Only unspent convictions have to be declared and any that have become spent cannot be used to count against ex-offenders by law – the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 saw to that…..Read more>>