Advisers to young people being released from custody can assist them in accessing advice and housing support.
Advice before release
Young people should be able to access advice before their release from prison or secure centre, including information on statutory and voluntary agencies than can assist them. In some prisons, training may be available in key areas such as finding and keeping accommodation, applying for benefit and support to rebuilding family relationships.
Inside Information - resources for prisoners
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Legal duties towards young people leaving custody
Local authorities have a duty to take a homelessness application from any person where they have reason to believe that they may be homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days.
Where young people are leaving custody, there are two things to note about this duty:
- an application should be taken before release from custody if the young person, or someone on their behalf, contacts the local authority within the 56 days before their release.
- a local authority that is approached must take an application. It need not be the authority in the area in which they were in custody, or the area where they lived before their imprisonment.
See homelessness applications for details on applying as homeless.
Will a young person leaving custody get accommodation?
The local housing authority will have a duty to provide interim accommodation duty where there is reason to believe that the young person may be:
Most 16 and 17 year olds will be entitled to accommodation from social services rather than the housing department.
What if the young person leaving custody is over 18?
Young people who are aged 18 or older will automatically have a priority need if they
- have dependent children
- are pregnant
- are 18, 19, or 20 and were looked after by Children’s Services for any time when they were aged 16 or 17.
Some young people may have a priority need if they are vulnerable as a result of having
- been in custody
- been committed for contempt of court
- been on remand.
A person will not automatically be considered vulnerable and therefore in priority need in these circumstances; they will have to pass the ‘vulnerability test’. However, when deciding if a young person leaving custody is vulnerable, the local authority should take account of:
- the length of the sentence (although a short sentence does not automatically mean that someone is not vulnerable)
- whether there is any supervision from a criminal justice agency (for example, a Youth Offending Team) and, if so, the opinion of and evidence from the young person’s supervising officer as to their vulnerability
- if they left custody before applying as homeless, whether they have been able to find and maintain any accommodation since leaving
- if they have existing support networks (for example, family or friends), and whether these support networks are likely to be a positive influence
- evidence of any other vulnerability such as mental health problems, drug or alcohol misuse, or a history of having been in care.
If a housing needs assessment has been conducted by a criminal justice agency, and this identifies that the young person may have difficulty accessing housing or be particularly vulnerable, this should be made available to the local authority.
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Advising young people leaving custody
- early intervention and advance preparation is essential if the young person is to avoid a period of homelessness when leaving custody. A young person who is approaching the end of a term of imprisonment should be advised upon all the options available, including returning to the parental home, especially if it is unlikely that the local authority will have an interim accommodation duty.
- if the young person will be making a homelessness application, advisers should inform the local authority of the threat of homelessness as soon as possible, so that any problems can be resolved and interim accommodation arranged prior to release. Any pertinent information about their offence and sentence should be made available.
- advisers can arrange a multi-agency meeting, involving any criminal justice workers, the housing department, and any other relevant people or agencies, to discuss the young person’s housing needs prior to release.
- where a negative decision has been made on a homelessness application, advisers can help with a review of the decision.
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Supported accommodation for ex-offenders
Young people leaving prison and trying to find rented accommodation may have underlying support needs. Without the support in finding the right place to live, these young people could be at risk of homelessness or re-offending.
The type of support needed could include:
- help finding appropriate accommodation
- help and advice on benefits
- money and debt advice including budgeting skills
- tools and support to find education or employment.
Example - Stonham: Housing for ex-offenders
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Further advice and support
Benefits and grants/loans
Some young people may have continued to receive benefits while in prison.
See Shelter Housing Advice - Keeping your home when in prison
Prisoners released under temporary licence will not be able to claim means-tested benefits and should seek further advice. Other young people released from prison will be able to make benefit claims.
Support for young people released from prison from can be provided by the local authority and/or partner organisations.
Gov.uk - Youth offending teams
Download - Howard League for Penal Reform: Resettlement
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