Council housing ‘central to prison reform’

19 Feb 19

Local authorities will be key to facilitating prison reforms by providing housing for ex-offenders, the justice secretary has said.

David Gauke set out his vision to abolish prison sentences under six months and replace them with more community orders, at a Reform think-tank event on Monday.

Answering a question from PF at the event, Gauke noted the important role that councils play in providing housing for ex-offenders or those facing community orders.

He said: “We do know that one of the biggest barriers to rehabilitation is housing – it is a challenge I am confronted with every time I go around and speak to prison or probation staff.“There is a question about what you do with somebody who might have a job, but they struggle with accommodation. I think working closely with local authorities is key.”

The Ministry of Justice has said that those ex-prisoners who are homeless or in temporary accommodation are significantly more likely to reoffend within a year than those with a stable place to live.

The ministry has invested £6m into pilots at Leeds, Pentonville and Bristol prisons to help ex-prisoners find stable accommodation after being released. 

Martin Tett, Housing spokesman at the Local Government Association, said: “The government have acknowledged that housing is a key issue to stop offenders from reoffending and where possible, local authorities aim to form multi-agency partnerships to provide support to individuals who rely on council services, such as housing. 

“A genuine renaissance in council housebuilding is the only way to boost housing supply, help families struggling to meet housing costs, provide homes to rent, reduce homelessness and tackle the housing waiting lists many councils have.”

Councils are already struggling to provide enough homes and the Chartered institute of Housing recently estimated that 165,000 homes for social rent have been lost since 2012.

Gauke said that there is “strong case” for switching resource away from ineffective” prison sentences and into probation and said he will give more details later this year on changes he wants to make to the system.

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