Local authorities are failing to meet their responsibilities towards older prisoners including provision of equipment such as wheelchairs, the chief inspector of prisons has said.
In a review of the needs of older prisoners in England and Wales, Anne Owers (right) said that funding of social care in prison was a “big problem” and that many councils were “reluctant” to provide help.
While health services for prisoners are now funded by the local primary care trust, local authorities where the prisoner was last resident have responsibility for funding their social care assessment and support.
But Owers’ review found that the costs of social care support – including where prisoners were released into the community – were being met either by the PCT or the prison.
Most councils would only provide social care support in the community if the prisoner was assessed as having a need that posed a critical or substantial risk to their independence.
There were also practical problems in transferring funds from local authorities where offenders were held away from their areas, and in some cases necessary equipment was taken from prisoners when they were transferred to other prisons.
Owers called for a national strategy for social care in prisons which could include the appointment of the PCT as the lead commissioner.
The review also said the response from the National Offender Management Service to the inspectorate’s previous recommendations on care for older prisoners was “disappointing” and found there was “still some way to go” in meeting the new legal requirement in relation to disability.
The review cited improvements in care by healthcare and voluntary agencies, individual prisons and prison staff, but said there was a “significant dislocation” between the government’s overall strategy for the ageing population and the treatment of older prisoners.
Nearly 3% of men in prison are over 60, while women over 50 make up 7% of the female prison population.