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
? 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.