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Probation hostels protect the public, more are needed
Inspectors found probation hostels do well at protecting the public but could do more to tackle reoffending. More places are needed, particularly for women.

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Approved premises get inspectors’ approval

Probation hostels do a good job overall at protecting the public and preparing individuals to move back into the community once they have left prison.

That’s the headline finding of today’s inspection report, Probation Hostels’ (Approved Premises) Contribution to Public Protection, Rehabilitation and Resettlement.

 National capacity 2,200

Probation hostels, called approved premises, are located in the community and occupied by some of the riskiest individuals as they are released from prison. They act as a halfway house between prison and home and have two main roles: to help rehabilitate and resettle those people and to make sure that the public are protected in the offenders’ early months in the community. There are 101 hostels across England and Wales which vary in size and what they offer. Most hostel residents pose a high or very high risk of serious harm. There are some 2,200 beds available.


Inspectors found probation hostels are doing a good job overall. Their staff are exceptionally good at protecting the public and managing the risks posed by individuals, returning them to prison when necessary. The quality of resettlement and rehabilitation services was mixed, and was noticeably better for women than for men. Independent hostels providing services under contract also perform well.

Inspectors concluded that there are not enough hostels in the right places, and this reduces the chance that rehabilitation and resettlement work will be effective. Many residents are placed away from their home areas. There is a general shortage of places, leading to more people being sent to wherever a place is available. A number of residents have spent years in prison and their rehabilitation needs are complex, and in most cases better addressed in the community in which they intend to live. This is particularly true for women.

Performance measures focus on occupancy, but targets need to achieve an optimum balance of occupancy and effectiveness. Were extra beds and hostels to be provided, those places could easily be filled and this would also enable some prisoners to be released earlier. There are only six women’s hostels, with none in London or Wales, and a clear shortage of places for women.

It would aid policy and delivery if there were better management information available about the extent to which offenders get the right placements at the right time, get the right services and achieve the right results. Inspectors found that many residents do make progress towards their goals and a large number present complex patterns or risks and needs, making the progress yet more impressive.

The inspectors’ findings that as many as one in three residents of their sample were recalled to prison (with only one in ten committing further offences) fits into current concerns expressed by many, including the Parole Board and the National Probation Service about the growing prevalence of recalls.


Key recommendations made by inspectors include:

  1. The Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) should establish systems to measure take-up of hostel places, service quality and outcomes and use this information to improve the effectiveness of the estate.
  2. The Ministry of Justice should focus on the capacity, type and distribution of the probation hostel estate.
  3. The National Probation Service should ensure all probation hostels offer a programme of purposeful activities that both meets the need of residents and secures their participation and they should strengthen liaison between hostels and local strategic partners.

Chief Inspector Dame Glenys Stacey summarised the report:

Probation hostels house some of the most dangerous offenders, as they leave prison. We found they are doing a good job overall. Local communities are well protected as residents are managed closely, and returned to prison when their behaviour warrants it. Individuals stay for just a few months, but some hostels – especially those for men and those in public ownership – could do more in that time to rehabilitate offenders and prepare them for their next steps.

Probation hostels are usually full. More places and well-run hostels where they are most needed would mean more of our most dangerous offenders could be released safely, and change their lives for the better.

HMIP have again produced an extremely useful accompanying infographic which summarises their main findings:

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6 Responses

  1. Good Afternoon,
    I realise this post is now 2 years old but wondered if you would be able to assist me.
    My son is currently at the point in his sentence where he is eligible for ROTLs and we are trying to find out how long before his “approved” dates can or should an application be submitted to the Approved Premises?
    Also how far in advance can the AP confirm availability of a bed?
    Any assistance you can give us in clarifying these points would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Alison,
      I’m afraid I don’t know the answers to your questions and can only suggest you ask the prison. If they have OMiC (Offender Management in Custody) at your son’s prison, he should have a named prison officer who should be able to liaise with probation to find out when. Alternatively, your son may have a probation officer or probation service officer allocated to him at his local National Probation Service office who should be able to help.
      Good luck

  2. Hi. Given the shortage of suitable accommodation, particularly for women, I would be interested in registering my property as an AP. Are you able to provide guidance on procedure?

    With thanks

  3. A colleague (who has an extensive background in the probation service\assisting ex-offenders) have a property with 18 bedrooms in Kent and we are looking to offer temporary\move on accommodation to people leaving prison, along with support in CV writing and job seeking.

    However we do not know who to contact regarding funding for this, are you able to point us in the right direction?

    1. Hi John
      Sorry, I wouldn’t know where to start. They are currently renovating, adapting APs to provide more beds, rather than building new ones which is a very long process owing to planning permissions/local objections etc. You could find out who is responsible for APs within HMPPS and get in touch with them but I’m afraid I don’t know who that is. Good Luck. Russell

  4. It clearly not working out. The system is on its knees. The numbers of beds to the amount of prisoner’s for release need to be cut to six or the weeks. Putting people coming out of prison in areas they don’t know. Who have mental health issues must be scary stressful and very frustrating. I think its very unfair even cruel. A lot of these men have personality disorders or ADHD. I can see why one in three are recalled. Its almost setting them up to fail.
    I’m hearing many who leave prison are given tents and sleeping bags because the cogs in the system are rusted broken and under financed.
    Most violent acts by men is because of alcohol and class A drugs. Many are missed by family and just want them home.
    I also know the educational systems in prisons are not happening prisoner’s are being fobbed off. Classes are very rare and prisoner’s are very eager to have them to help them progress.
    Looks to me as long as people are getting the wages their not really that concerned.
    I understand there are teething issues but this has been going on for many years and the prisoner’s end up the victims. Those who do years behind bars grow out of this behaviour inside.
    You cant expect people to do well if the system is creaking. Tories talk the talk but never back it up with the money.
    I also heard 6 people to a class is only allowed. Men waiting years just for one class.
    It’s just not good enough.

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