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Housing support for prison leavers
Clinks Advisory Group reports on the increasing difficulties for people leaving prison to find supported housing.

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Breaking down the barriers

Yesterday (19 June 2024) Clinks published a report from the RR3 Special Interest Group on Accommodation as part of the work of the Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group. The report Breaking down the barriers – accessing housing-related support highlights the problems for people leaving prison in accessing adequate housing-related support. The report covers the level of support required and the limitations of current commissioned services.

The RR3

The Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3) provides the key interface between the voluntary sector, the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS with the purpose of increasing mutual understanding and building a strong and effective partnership. The RR3 convenes Special Interest Groups to advise on specific areas of policy and practice and this report has been produced by the Accommodation SIG.

The report

The report is based on two evidence sessions comprised of twenty-one voluntary organisations and officials from the Ministry of Justice and His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), alongside a call for evidence that received 30 submissions. The SIG considered legislative changes and Government initiatives designed, since 2018, to mitigate some of the issues raised, and explored proposed recommendations.

The report is divided into two sections:

  1. Housing-related support and the barriers to the effective delivery of services
  2. The limitations of commissioning.

Housing support

The report finds that there is a significant gap in resources and the expertise to offer supported housing to people leaving prison, as well as a gap in bespoke services which can support people with complex needs and/or who are considered higher risk of serious harm.

  • Bespoke mental health and substance misuse support were highlighted as particularly lacking, with a reduction in specialised, registered professionals such as occupational therapists and mental health leads
  • This gap in resources is exacerbated due to pressure from adult social care services for supported housing providers to accept “higher risk” individuals who providers cannot effectively risk manage. 
  • The Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act 2023, with its focus on increasing the quality of supported housing provision, also carries the risk – due to increased regulation and local scrutiny – of reducing the provision that is available for people leaving prison.

Other issues include:

  • An increase in examples of sub-standard supported accommodation, lacking in appropriate support, including examples of unscrupulous
    landlords who receive enhanced housing benefit rates but who provide limited support.
  • Blockages due to limited move-on options 
  • Limited options for women – there is a limited pool of women-only supported accommodation.

Commissioning limitations

The report also explores  limitations within the current commissioning of supported housing provision, with four key barriers to effective service delivery raised as of particular concern:

  1. The limitations of short-term contracting
  2. Contract values
  3. Siloed support
  4. Increased complexity of need.

Short-term contracting

Floating support contracts vary in length, with examples given of four-week support contracts (which specifically relates to the terms of  engagement between the service and a person using that service). Such a short period of time does not allow for sufficient support to be provided for people with particularly complex needs.

Contract values

Contract values have remained stagnant for the majority of the last decade with the result that voluntary providers are effectively subsidising the work from their fund-raising activities. The issue of value has a knock-on effect on the staffing of services, with specialist services having to be run by a smaller number of staff members, reducing the quality of the support service.

Siloed support

Support is often offered in siloes, which is not suitable for people presenting with complex and often overlapping needs. Demand is also rising because previous eligibility requirements, such as having been in contact with the criminal justice system, no longer apply. As a result of widening the criteria, people leaving prison are being pushed out of accessing support and are often deprioritised. Siloed commissioning not only fails to provide effective support to people with complex needs, but is also an expensive model.

Increased complexity of need

The report found that many services provided only low-level support while the people in need of support were presenting with increasingly complex needs.


The report concludes with five key recommendations:

  1. Ensure access to prisons for supported housing staff to meet people ahead of release.
  2. Obligate local authorities to consider the level of supported housing stock required to support people leaving prison with support needs best met in supported housing, including specific provision for women.
  3. Ensure that housing support contracts are of a length necessary, reflecting need, to provide the amount of support required.
  4. Ensure that commissioned services cater for people presenting with complex and overlapping needs, with specific provision for people who have been in contact with the criminal justice system.
  5. Provision of additional, women-only supported accommodation.

Thanks to Dan Meyers for kind permission to use the header image in this post which was previously published on Unsplash.

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One Response

  1. I think we need to take the stance that we teach people to be able to look after a tenancy for them self’s there have been a few instances where prisons have set up training flats to teach people how to be come tenancy ready, Pay bills, set up direct debits, cook for them selves on a budget, learn who they need to pay and prioritize. even the simple things around the importance of reading mail especially ones that come in brown envelopes. And also who they can ask for help before things get too bad.

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