Housing advice on release from prison

If you have a history of offending, you'll may face additional barriers in accessing housing.

I will be homeless on release. Can I get help from the council?

Yes. In all cases, the help you will get from us will be by way of something called a 'personal housing plan' (PHP). Be warned, it can be a lengthy process. You will have your part to play in this process by completing a number of actions set out in PHP.

To qualify for housing as a homeless person, you will usually have to meet all of the following criteria:

  • be eligible for assistance (for instance, to come from the UK and not be an asylum seeker or have limited rights to remain)
  • be in a priority group
  • be unintentionally homeless
  • have connection to the local area

Other things to consider prior to release

Can I get any help with money on release?

You can apply for a discharge grant of £46 before you are released. If you have found accommodation for your first night on release, you can also apply for an extra grant of about £50 which will be paid directly to the accommodation provider.

Crisis loans and community care grants no longer exist, but if you need money urgently you might be able to apply to us for welfare support. You can do this before you are released, particularly if you need help with essential items (for example, clothes) or general costs associated with moving into new accommodation.

If you would like to apply for welfare support, we suggest you arrange an appointment with an adviser in your prison to help you prepare for your release .

I am eligible to be released on home detention curfew (tag). Where can I get help with finding suitable accommodation?

If you are eligible to be released on tag, your offender manager will need to approve your intended accommodation to ensure that it complies with your sentence or licence conditions.

Stonham operates the bail and support scheme (BASS) which offers accommodation if you are on bail or on tag and you have no suitable alternative. You will have to pay for BASS accommodation, but you may be able to claim housing benefit to help with the cost.

Some other housing providers will accept applications if you are on a tag. Please contact the Resettlement Advice Service on 0300 123 1999 for advice on other housing providers who accept these applications.

BASS

BASS is a government contract that provides accommodation and support services if you would normally be living in the community, on bail or Home Detention Curfew (HDC), but do not otherwise have a suitable address. It can also help if you need some extra support during the period of your bail or HDC licence.

You'll only be eligible for this service if you have been bailed by the courts or released from prison, initially on an electronic tag, having served a prison sentence. The overall aim of the service is to reduce unnecessary loss of liberty and its negative impacts on family life, employment and housing, and to deter people from re-offending.

BASS does not provide accommodation if you have a conviction, caution, a current allegation of or are under police bail for any sexual offences.

If you have a client or family member who may be eligible for this service please contact BASS on 0300 555 0264.

My licence conditions mean that I cannot return home. What are my options?

You should speak to your offender manager before you are released if your licence conditions mean that you cannot return home. In some cases, you might be referred to approved premises (for example, a probation hostel). Places are very limited and are generally reserved for those who are considered high risk and are under multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA).

If you are worried about where you will live for the duration of your licence, you can call our Resettlement Advice Service on 0300 123 1999.

I will be homeless on release. What are my options?

Family and friends

Most people leaving prison return to family or friends, at least in the short term.

If your relationships with family and friends have broken down, it is possible to rebuild bridges, perhaps with the help of prison staff. If your family and friends can see that you have made progress in prison, perhaps in terms of addressing past issues, then they might be more prepared to help you on release.

It is very difficult to secure housing on release as waiting lists are long, so it is very important not to dismiss this as an option.

Emergency housing options

If you need somewhere to stay in an emergency, your options include:

You can find details of local night shelters, direct access hostels and day centres by contacting the Resettlement Advice Service on 0300 123 1999 for advice.

How we can help

If you are applying for housing as a single, homeless person, we can only provide limited support unless you are assessed as being in a priority group. This is because there is a shortage of housing association places, which means we can only provide housing to the most vulnerable people.

It is still worth contacting us up to 56 days before your release, in case you are one of the few who will qualify for housing. If you do not qualify, we’ll still provide information about other local housing options which might help you to find accommodation.

Supported housing providers

Supported housing can offer you specialist support to address specific issues that may have led to your imprisonment or to help you with living independently and adjusting back into the community. Varying levels of support can be provided, depending on the type of accommodation service and your needs.

Private renting

The main advantage of private rented accommodation is that you will have a greater degree of choice in terms of location and type of property. Private rented accommodation is an obvious choice if you have some savings. It is also something that your family and friends can help you to look for and, where possible and necessary, lend money for in order to secure a property.

We may be able to give you advice about what is available in your local area and how you can get help with paying the rent bonds and rent in advance.

Priority groups

You will not be considered a priority just because you have been in prison.

You will need to provide evidence of vulnerability. Prison and probation staff may be able to support your application. Even if we decide you are vulnerable due to time spent in prison, it may be judged that you became intentionally homeless by committing a serious crime in the first place.

In England, priority groups include:

  • pregnant women
  • those who are responsible for dependent children
  • young people aged 16 or 17
  • care leavers
  • others who may be considered vulnerable:
    – older applicants
    – those with disabilities or mental health problems
    – those who have left the armed forces, a young offender institution or prison
    – people under the age of 25 who are vulnerable due to sleeping on the streets in the past or problems with drugs or alcohol.

If we accept you are eligible for assistance, in priority need and homeless, we will provide temporary accommodation whilst we investigate how you became homeless and whether you have a local connection.

Local connection

If you are eligible for our assistance, in a priority group and have been made unintentionally homeless, we will check if you have a local connection to the area to which you have applied. You are likely to be considered to have a local connection to an area if:

  • you have lived in the area for six out of the last 12 months, or three out of the last five years. Time spent in prison in an area does not count towards this
  • you have a close family member living in the area and this member has lived there for a minimum of five years, and is still resident (a close family member is defined as a mum, dad, sister, brother, or adult child)
  • you have secured work in the area and have an employment contract

If you do not have a local connection to the area to which you have applied, we may refer you to another area where you do have a local connection. The council for that area will then have to help you.

If we decided it is not your fault that you are homeless, that you are in a priority group and you have a local connection, we will then have to help you secure permanent housing.

However, due to the shortage of housing available and the numbers of people who are eligible for assistance, you may have to stay in temporary accommodation for a while before you are offered something permanent.

I don't want to return to my local area. What are my options?

If you want to move away from your local area, your main options will be to:

  • stay with family or friends in a different area
  • find private rented accommodation

If you wish to move to an area where you have no friends or family whatsoever, and you do not have the means to rent privately, your best option might be to return to your local area for a couple of months as you will have more housing options there. This will give you time to consider your options for moving away.

If you are on licence, you will need to check with your offender manager that it is OK for you to move to a new area, as you will probably need your supervision arrangements to be transferred.

Can I get help with renting a property?

To rent a property you will usually need:

  • good character references, usually from a previous landlord or past employer
  • money for a deposit and rent in advance
  • money to cover your rent.

If you need help to pay your rent, you can apply for housing benefit or Universal Credit Housing Element. The amount payable to you will depend on where you live and who else lives with you, and is worked out according to the local housing allowance. Local housing allowance (LHA) rates are set for different types of accommodation in each area. The rates range from a single room in a shared house up to properties with four bedrooms.

If you are under 35, you will only be able to get rent to cover you for a room in a shared house. You must be at least 35 years old to qualify for a self-contained one-bedroom property.

Getting help

We can discuss your housing options with you. Please contact us on 01423 500600.

To self-register for homelessness and housing options advice please visit live.housingjigsaw.co.uk

Self-registration guide

Out of office

You can also seek advice from Shelter 0808 800 4444.

Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 - Duty to refer

Following the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 in April 2018, October saw the next phase in the government legislation 'duty to refer'. The legislation places responsibility on specified public bodies, to refer individuals to the local authority, where that person is believed to be at risk of homelessness.

For more information please visit our duty to refer page.