Finding accommodation when leaving prison can be difficult. This note outlines the support available to people leaving prison and the relevant duties of local authorities. It also considers how a prison sentence affects a person's ability to receive Housing Benefit.Jump to full report >>
Repeated studies have established that securing adequate housing for ex-offenders can have a significant impact on rates of recidivism. This note considers the housing support offered by prisons and probation services, both before and after the Government's 'Transforming Rehabilitation' reforms.
Local authorities also have a statutory duty to assist homeless and vulnerable ex-offenders in some circumstances. However, changes introduced by the Localism Act 2011 mean that authorities have more discretion to exclude certain applicants from their housing registers; this could make it more difficult for people with a history of anti-social behaviour to access social housing.
If not entitled to social housing, a local authority must provide advice to ex-offenders at risk of homelessness. This duty is being strengthened by the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. The Act will also introduce a duty for public authorities to notify a local authority if they believe a person to be at risk of homelessness. As ex-offenders leave prison, this may well place such duties on prison or probation services.
As well as outlining these duties, this note also includes reference to established good practice in this area.
Finally, this note looks at Housing Benefit. Currently, those subject to a sentence of 13 weeks or less may be able to claim Housing Benefit to secure their accommodation during the period they are held in prison. For those on remand, Housing Benefit can be paid for 52 weeks. Under Universal Credit, prisoners who are unlikely to spend longer than 6 months in prison may be entitled to housing assistance regardless of whether they are on remand or convicted.
Additional information and advice on securing housing for ex-offenders can be found on Shelter’s website. Nacro is a national charity for ex-offenders and can provide advice in many areas, including housing. Most prisons also employ specialist housing advisors to provide help with securing housing prior to release.
Commons Briefing papers SN02989
Authors: Wendy Wilson; Alexander Bellis