Social care and older prisoners

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Summary: This article reviews the evidence available on the treatment of older prisoners within England and Wales who are the fastest growing group within prisons. It concentrates on the lack of available social care facilities for older prisoners. Many older prisoners have special needs that are not met within prison, mainly because of the 'sameness' principle that is applied. Social care is as important to older prisoners as their health care. Although some social care may be available to older prisoners, it is not provided within the legal framework that applies to older people outside of prison. This article argues that the general legal obligation to provide social care (imperfect though it may be), should also be applied within the prison setting.

Findings: Based on the evidence available, older prisoners are often unable to access social care services within prison. This is a breach of international obligations entered into by the United Kingdom. It may also breach the European Convention of Human Rights. The article argues that existing legislation does not prevent older prisoners from accessing social care services. The sameness principle discriminates against older prisoners. Mental health, physical disability, and incontinence are all areas where older prisoners lack access to services available to older people outside of prison.

Applications: Considerable progress has been made in raising the profile of older prisoners. However, more needs to be done to embed the social care needs older prisoners may have into the prison system. The ordinary residence rule, the National Service Framework and the Fair Access to Care guidance must be adapted to meet the needs of serving prisoners as well as those preparing for release. Attitudes need to change. There also needs to be a willingness to meet the international and domestic legal obligations towards older prisoners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-491
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Social Work
Issue number5
Early online date21 Feb 2012
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013


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