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Bringing Together Housing Providers and the Criminal Justice Sector

By Florence Stone,2014-07-11 16:54
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Bringing Together Housing Providers and the Criminal Justice Sector ...

    Bringing Together Housing Providers and the Criminal Justice Sector thVisit to South West Accommodation Gateway 5 February 2008

Attendees: - Louise Dawson (Probation), Martyn Saunders (WHABAC), Sarah Rothwell (Supporting

    People & Yvonne Bentley (Mental Health)

A visit was made to the ‘South West Accommodation Gateway’ (SWAG). The visit took place at the

    Bristol Gateway, which is one of three-linked accommodation Gateways in the Southwest Region. The

    other two are in Dorset and Plymouth.

SWAG is a two-year pilot Project funded by the Ministry of Justice until March 2008.The aim is to

    reduce re-offending by preventing and reducing the homelessness of offenders on release from custody

    and in the community. The Gateways are multi agency one-stop shops providing information and

    advice to enable offenders in the community (on supervision) and in prison to access accommodation

    and associated support. They provide a single point of access to supported housing, floating support;

    private rented housing and other local accommodation in the Gateway area, so there is one referral route

    for all offenders. In Bristol one of the Gateway Housing Advice workers is based in the Prison and

    Providers may visit the Prison.

The three Gateways operate on different models. In Bristol, the service is delivered by Bristol City

    Council, in partnership with a voluntary sector housing and support-focused agency. This model is

    funded by homeless prevention grant. In Dorset the Dorset Probation Service and local Authorities

    deliver the service funded by Supporting People. In Plymouth by Devon and Cornwall Probation

    Service in partnership with a voluntary sector agency.

An independent evaluation of SWAG has been commissioned which will provide information about the

    strengths and weaknesses of the different models of delivery (including financial savings). The Project

    Team visit to the Bristol Gateway provided opportunity to meet with the Gateway Development Officer

    who was able to provide

    An overview of all three projects, the very significant challenges including finding placements for High

    Risk Offenders and the difficulties brought about by early release from prison (often with little or no

    prior notice). However the discussion highlighted some positive key areas of delivery as well as ideas/

    initiatives for further development. A summary of these is set out below.

    ? More stream lined referral processes have been developed including the piloting of a Common

    Needs Assessment Form (including housing & support needs & risk assessment) to open up

    access to Supported Housing and Private rented accommodation. Also Accommodation

    database/IT systems to match offenders with vacant bed spaces. Accommodation officers based

    in Probation & prisons.

    ? Information sharing protocol- probation responsible for risk management and the offender

    supervisor signing off information in the assessment.

    ? Commissioning. Needs led, strategic relationship with housing and support providers including

    influencing access to housing, evidencing links between accommodation outcomes, support and

    offending.

    ? Prioritisation on waiting list/protocols. Focusing resources on those offenders with a

    criminogenic accommodation need where the potential impact on reducing re-offending and /or

    risk of harm will be greatest. One of the authorities has made offenders a Priority Group.

    ? 3 months notice period of release from prison and good quality housing advice. Publicity and

    knowledge of the ‘Gateway’ prior to release. Advocate for homeless and housing applications.

    ? Rent deposit scheme to prevent homelessness. Flexible bond including ability to pay for the

    increased insurance cover for offenders with convictions for arson, paying for B&B for a few

    days whilst more suitable provision becomes available (e.g. on release from custody). Good

    information sharing & can contact ‘Gateway’ if any issues. All tenants have a support package

    even if only for a month, others have longer support. Cases are open until tenants have settled

    for 6 months (check ok after 3 months then 6 months).

    ? Building links with Private sector landlords /establishing deposit guarantee schemes.

    ? Developing a DVD about Supported Housing to provide information to prospective applicants

    in custody. Also transport from the prison gate to Accommodation.

    ? Agreements for Surrendering /Sustaining Tenancies for those in LA/Partner Housing

    Association Tenancies e.g. .For some serving prison sentences of 6 months or more an

    arrangement to surrender a tenancy would result in alternative accommodation being offered

    based on individual need at time of release. Also possible opportunities to sustain tenancies for

    those in custody who fall short of the 13 week Housing Benefit Rule.

    ? Establishing an Offender Providers Forum e.g. to raise awareness of Probation procedures and

    processes including risk management. Provides opportunity to develop a coordinated approach

    to meeting housing and support needs of offenders.

    ? Possible development of a specific project to meet the needs of women offenders. More

    complex as need to think of family rather than as a single person. Consideration of access to

    children, potential return of children etc.

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