Four Kent councils – including Thanet – receive government cash to help prevent homelessness in newly released prisoners

Preventing homelessness

Government funding has been awarded to a group of four Kent councils -including Thanet – aimed at preventing homelessness of people released from prison.

Around 50 percent of prisoners in Kent have no accommodation to go to when they are released, and almost half of all rough sleepers in the county have a history of offending.

These concerning statistics were the driving force behind a bid last year by  Canterbury, Maidstone, Medway and Thanet councils for government funding to try and prevent prisoner homelessness upon release.

The bid was successful and the project has now been awarded £314,000 from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The aim is to bring agencies so there is a coordinated approach to meeting the housing and support needs of prisoners about to be released. The teams will work to secure suitable accommodation, reduce reoffending rates and improve their chances of maintaining independence.

The funding is for the 2019/20 financial year and will be used to employ more staff to work with prisoners during their time in custody, developing individual support plans to ensure they are not released as homeless.

It will be open to prisoners over the age of 18 who have had a custodial sentence or been on remand in a Kent prison for less than 12 months, with an initial focus on those who were homeless when they went to prison or who have previously been a rough sleeper.

Those accessing the project must have a local connection to the Canterbury, Maidstone, Medway or Thanet areas. People with no local connection and no accommodation on release, but who are expressing a clear intention to settle in one of the four areas, can access advice and guidance.

Accommodation will come from the private sector and landlords are being encouraged to get involved with the project.

Canterbury City Council led the funding bid for all four councils.

Bob Porter, Head of Housing and Planning at Thanet, said: “Receiving this funding is really positive news. It will go towards our work with people leaving prison, who often find securing accommodation a challenge. Our core aim is to work in partnership with other local councils to provide support so that prisoners and ex-offenders have somewhere to stay upon release and in particular to ensure that they don’t end up rough sleeping.

“By offering early intervention we aim to prevent homelessness and reduce repeat offending amongst this vulnerable group of people for whom these two issues often correlate.”

According to a report by national charity Homeless Link:

  • The total prison population in the UK is 84,7462 of which approximately 66,000 leave each year.
  • Figures show that 15% of men and 13% of women in prison listed ‘no fixed abode’ as their accommodation status when leaving.
  • Some 23% people accessing homeless accommodation projects and 16% of day centres have had recent
    contact with the criminal justice system
  • 15% of newly sentenced people in prison reported being homeless before entering custody
  • Research by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) showed that 79% of those who were previously homeless went on to be convicted in the first year after being released.
  • Approximately 6 in 10 female prisoners have nowhere to go to on release from prison

Read here:Out of prison, hearing voices and on the street – Margate dad pleads for someone ‘to listen’