Somewhere safe to live
Health support
Enough money for the essentials
How you can help

 

OVERVIEW

Every year, tens of thousands of people are released from prison having served their time and eager for a second chance. The reality is that that second chance is a distant dream for the high numbers of people released with nowhere to live, no job and unable to buy the basics.

Shockingly, almost 1,000 people are released from prison homeless or rough sleeping every month, making it almost impossible for them to get a job and put in place the other support they need.

The day of release can be a race against the clock for people as they try to find somewhere to stay, get health support, apply for benefits and see their probation officer. For people released on a Friday or released during Christmas, this can feel like an impossible challenge: with services closing for the weekend and for the holidays, too many are left sleeping rough, without medication or enough money until Monday or the new year. Without the right support in place, we are simply setting people up to fail.

The impact is high. Reoffending rates remain stubbornly high, with around half of people released from prison committing another crime within a year of release. For people who are released homeless the chances of reoffending are even higher.

This isn’t inevitable. By removing the barriers and providing the right support, we can give people the chance they need to create a better life for themselves and their families, and the chance to contribute to our communities.

There are simple steps we can take to make sure people leave prison with somewhere safe to live, the health support they need and enough money for the basics to get them started. The first thing we can do is stop releasing people on a Friday or during Christmas to give them the best chance at a second chance.

Key stats

  • Around half of people who are released from prison reoffend with a year; this increases to two thirds for people who are released homeless
  • 1000 people a month are released homeless or rough sleeping
  • As much as 90% of the prison population have mental health or substance misuse problem
  • Only 30% of people receiving treatment services whilst in prison are successfully transferred from treatment services in prison to the community on release
  • 83% of people who leave prison are unemployed
  • The Discharge Grant of £46 has remained the same for over 20 years

 

SOMEWHERE SAFE TO LIVE

Having somewhere safe to live is one of the most basic of human needs, but every month 1000 people are released from prison homeless or rough sleeping. The chances of being released homeless or rough sleeping are even higher for women and people on short prison sentences.

Without somewhere to live, people leaving prison struggle to apply for benefits, get a job or register with a GP, all of which are critical in reducing the risk of reoffending.

The impact is high. Two thirds of people released without somewhere to live reoffend within a year, far higher than the overall reoffending rate.

This isn’t inevitable. We believe:

  • Everyone leaving prison should be guaranteed a safe place to stay on the first night of release and beyond.

Paul was vulnerable and entitled to priority housing. However, the local authority did not deem him to be priority need and, as it was a Friday afternoon, he didn’t have time to gather the further evidence the council asked for to prove this before the weekend. Paul ended up spending the weekend sleeping in a known drug house and using heroin.

HEALTH SUPPORT

For the high proportion of people leaving prison with mental and physical health needs, being able to get immediate and ongoing support is vital. But too often people leave without the right medication, prescriptions and without mental health, substance misuse or other support set up. In fact, only 30% of people receiving treatment services in prison are successfully transferred to treatment services in the community.

People in prison have poorer health than the general population, with estimates showing that as much as 90% of people in prison have mental health or substance misuse problems. The prison environment can make these problems worse and, for some, this can mean an increase in substance misuse.

The impact is high. Being released from prison can be a stressful time, particularly for people without housing or support set up in the community. Without the right medication or support, people have little chance of stabilising their lives and moving away from crime. Suicide and death due to drug misuse rates are significantly higher for people on probation than for the general population, and the risk of reoffending is high.

This isn’t inevitable. We believe:

  • Everyone who needs it should leave prison with sufficient medication or prescription to support them over the initial days
  • Everyone who needs community mental health or other treatment services should have appointments scheduled and should be supported to attend.

“Mark is a drug user. We will do everything we can but in reality by Monday the chances are he will have relapsed because we didn’t have the time to get all the support he needs in place before the weekend.”

ENOUGH MONEY FOR ESSENTIALS

Being able to buy the basics is vital for someone trying to rebuild their life after release from prison. Some people leave prison with little more than the clothes they went in with and need to buy the basics – from toiletries and food to clothes, bedding and travel.

People leaving prison receive a £46 Discharge Grant to cover essentials, but this hasn’t increased for over 20 years. Most will need to apply for benefits at the start as they try to find work. But with many people not having somewhere to live, ID or a bank account, applications for Universal Credit are likely to be either unsuccessful or delayed.

Currently it’s not possible to submit an application for Universal Credit while in prison, and it can take up to five weeks to receive the first payment. While people can apply to receive an advance payment, this is not always processed straight away and the repayments can leave people unable to cover their basic costs and spiral into debt.

This isn’t inevitable. We believe:

  • People leaving prison should receive enough money to cover the basics immediately on release
  • People should be able to make their claim for Universal Credit before they are released from prison and the first payment available on the day of release
  • Everyone leaving prison should have valid ID so they can apply for Universal Credit as well as housing, jobs and other basics
  • The £46 Discharge Grant should be immediately reviewed, increased, and increased over time in line with inflation.

“My support worker gave me a £20 Tesco voucher so I could eat over the weekend. If it weren’t for him I don’t know what I’d have done.”


[1] [2] Nacro survey undertaken by Opinium in August 2019 of 2,004 nationally representative UK adults. Results available on request.

 

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Your help is vital in changing the lives of people on the day of release – and improving their chances of success at a second chance.