HMP LEEDS is to pilot a trailblazing new scheme that will help ex-offenders stay off the streets and away from crime, Justice Secretary David Gauke announced today.
Leeds has been chosen alongside Pentonville and Bristol prisons to spearhead the £6 million pilot programme aimed at helping vulnerable ex-prisoners find and stay in stable accommodation.
Research shows that those who are homeless or in temporary accommodation are significantly more likely to reoffend within a year than those with a stable place to live.
The pilot will target prisoners serving short sentences who are at high risk of returning to prison. This represents the latest in a series of national measures aimed at breaking the cycle of reoffending, from improving prisoners’ employment prospects to reinforcing family ties.
A new partnership approach between the prison, the local authority, probation staff, charities and others will see teams work together to provide the support prisoners need when they are released – such as signing up for benefits – but will primarily be focused on finding them suitable accommodation.
The two-year programme forms part of the Government’s £100m Rough Sleeping Strategy announced over the summer.
Justice Secretary David Gauke said:
“These ground-breaking pilots will help prevent rough sleeping among vulnerable ex-offenders and support them as they start a new life after prison.
“As well as ensuring people have somewhere to live, dedicated key worker support will help ex-offenders manage the practical challenges of finding a job and other issues that come with trying to reintegrate into society.
“Every time we help an ex-prisoner into a new life – with a stable home, strong relationships and a regular job – we increase the chances of seeing fewer victims of crime in the future.”
Housing benefit top ups and rental deposits will ensure that accommodation will be provided from the day offenders leave prison, bolstered through wrap around support from key workers to address other needs which may normally cause the loss of a tenancy, such as attending appropriate probation and employment appointments.
Heather Wheeler MP, Minister for Housing and Homelessness said:
“When leaving custody, ex-offenders should all have a safe and suitable home to go to and there is work to be done to ensure this is the case.
“These pilots will prove pivotal to our understanding of the situation and to inform any future accommodation provision. This will help improve the outcomes for ex-offenders across the country.”
Once the trial has completed, it will be fully evaluated to assess the potential for the scheme to be rolled out more widely across England. Work will also begin with the Welsh Government to deliver a similar accommodation solution.