Annys Darkwa, Managing Director of Vision Housing explains the need for more housing to help re-offenders integrate back into the community
Homelessness remains a real problem in the UK today and most strikingly this can be seen in the London area where people living in temporary housing remains at record levels. London remains an attractive place for people looking for housing and for work. Single homeless providers in London regularly achieve near full occupancy; the predictions are for further growth in population resulting in greater pressures upon an already over stressed housing supply stock.
When people are sent to prison they often lose everything: home, family and job. Their criminal record exacerbates their disadvantages and they often have difficulty in assimilating back into society especially in accessing housing and employment as a result. Many people leaving prison are at high risk of becoming homeless and reluctantly quickly slip back into an offending lifestyle. Accessing and maintaining suitable housing, particularly immediately on release from prison, is a vital step in moving people away from offending behaviour. Furthermore, they need support from people they can relate to in order to help them to increase their social capital, to develop and maintain relationships, to engage in their local community and to access education, training and employment.
By providing decent quality accommodation in an area away from the offender’s “territory” on the day of release, the chance of not reoffending is significantly greater than if returned to the previous community where the offence occurred. However, providing accommodation is only the beginning for offenders on their road to not reoffending. Providing advice and support in accessing statutory help, finding training opportunities and/or jobs, and remaining a source of support as long as it is needed is vital in meeting their ongoing higher needs.
Information for prisoners prior to leaving prison is poor with only 19% of prisoners receiving advice or guidance about accommodation (House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, Rehabilitation of Prisoners, 2004-2005, Volume 1 and 2). Most do not know what their options are and have poor strategies for searching for suitable accommodation.
To address this we need to continue to provide effective access to housing and resettlement support and implement a programme that directly addresses the needs we have identified. The aim must be to improve the levels of social inclusion for offenders and increase the opportunities for them to become involved in training and eventually employment.
As part of Chris Grayling’s ‘Rehabilitation Revolution’, he proposes that every offender should be met upon release by a dedicated mentor who is there to help the offender turn their lives around, resettle into the community and turn their back on crime for good.
We believe that this is too late and that it should start prior to release as many prisoners we see are playing catch-up on this upon release without sufficient resources available to them to sustain them in doing this.
Tel: +44 (0) 208 648 0402