Can I get any help with money on release?
If you have been in custody for more than 14 days, you can apply for a discharge grant of £46 before you are released. If you have found accommodation for your first night on release, you can also apply for an extra grant which will be paid directly to the accommodation provider.
Crisis loans and community care grants no longer exist, but if you need money urgently you might be able to apply to your local council for welfare support. You can do this before you are released, particularly if you need help with essential items (e.g. clothes) or general costs associated with moving into new accommodation.
If you would like to apply for welfare support, you could:
- contact your local council to find out what support is available and how you can apply
- arrange an appointment with an adviser in your prison to help you.
I am eligible to be released on home detention curfew (tag). Where can I get help with finding suitable accommodation?
If you are eligible to be released on tag, your offender manager will need to approve your intended accommodation to ensure that it complies with your sentence or licence conditions.
As of June 2018, Nacro operates the bail and support scheme (BASS) which offers accommodation to people on bail or on tag, who have no suitable alternative. You will have to pay for BASS accommodation, but you may be able to claim housing benefit to help with the cost.
Some other housing providers will accept applications from those on tag. Please contact the Criminal Record Support Service on 0300 123 1999 for further advice.
My licence conditions mean that I cannot return home. What are my options?
You should speak to your offender manager before you are released if your licence conditions mean that you cannot return home. In some cases, you might be referred to approved premises (i.e. a probation hostel, also known as ‘BASS accommodation’), but places are very limited and are generally reserved for those who are considered high risk and are under multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA).
If you are not considered high-risk, it is unlikely that you will be referred to a probation hostel. In this case, you should get advice from your offender manager about your licence restrictions and ask them to make appropriate housing referrals for you.
As of October 1 2018, certain public authorities that you may be engaged with will have a duty to refer you to the local council for housing support if you are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, as long as you consent for the referral to take place. This duty falls on prisons, probation services, community rehabilitation companies and Jobcentre Plus, among others.
If you are worried about where you will live for the duration of your licence, you can call our Criminal Record Support Service on 0300 123 1999.
I will be homeless on release from prison. What are my options?
Family and friends
Many people leaving prison return to family or friends, at least in the short term. If your relationships with family and friends have broken down, it is possible to rebuild bridges, perhaps with the help of prison staff. If your family and friends can see that you have made progress in prison, perhaps in terms of addressing past issues, then they might be more prepared to help you on release. It is very difficult to secure housing on release as waiting lists are long, so it is very important not to dismiss this as an option.
Emergency housing options
If you need somewhere to stay in an emergency, your options include:
- Registering as homeless with your local council
- Night shelters: you can find details of local night shelters here.
- Direct access hostels: you can find details of local direct access hostels here.
- No Second Night Out: this scheme operates in London and has been adopted by a number of other councils nationwide
- Bed and breakfast accommodation
- Visiting a day centre for help and further advice
If you are homeless, will be homeless within the next 56 days (8 weeks) or have been served a section 21 notice from your landlord, you should notify your local Council. They have a duty to help you and to try to prevent you from becoming homeless, although how much help they can give will depend on your circumstances.
If you do not meet the immigration and residence requirements, the Council will only be able to provide you with general advice and information.
Supported housing providers
Supported housing can offer you specialist support to address specific issues that may have led to your imprisonment or to help you with living independently and adjusting back into the community. Varying levels of support can be provided, depending on the type of accommodation service and your needs.
You will usually need to be referred to supported accommodation, perhaps by your offender manager or other support worker. Supported accommodation is not easy to obtain but it is generally easier to secure than council housing. Some projects have waiting lists in operation and will usually prioritise applicants according to how great and/or urgent their needs are.
The main advantage of private rented accommodation is that you will have a greater degree of choice in terms of location and type of property. Private rented accommodation is an obvious choice if you have some savings. It is also something that your family and friends can help you to look for and, where possible and necessary, lend money for in order to secure a property.
Your local council might also be able to give you advice about what is available in your local area and how you can get help with paying the rent.
I have nowhere to live on release from prison. How can the council help me?
If you meet the immigration and residency requirements, the council must assess your housing need and agree a personalised housing plan.
The purpose of the assessment is to help you keep your existing home, if you have one, or find you a new one. This will usually involve a face-to-face interview with a housing officer, although may be carried out by phone or video-link if you are still in prison. The assessment will cover you and anyone else who is part of your household.
The housing officer will want to know details of where you have lived previously, who you usually live with and if you have any support needs relating to health or disability.
Personalised housing plans
After your assessment, the Council should agree with you a plan of actions that they will take and you will take to prevent or relieve your homelessness. They should give you a copy of this plan. If you don’t agree with any of the actions outlined, the Council will make a decision about the actions you must take and record your concerns on the plan.
If you are threatened with homelessness, the plan usually lasts for 56 days (8 weeks). If you become homeless, the plan will usually last a further 8 weeks. If you have been served a section 21 notice, the council must help you for as long as you are threatened with homelessness.
If you refuse a suitable housing offer, or do not comply with the actions outlined in your plan without good reason, the council may decide to stop helping you.
If you are still homeless when the plan has come to an end, the council will decide if you are owed the main housing duty.
Main housing duty
You must meet the all of the following conditions to qualify for the main housing duty. You must:
- Be legally homeless
- Meet immigration and residence conditions
- Be in priority need
- Be homeless through no fault of your own
- Usually have a local connection with the area
If you meet these conditions, the council must find you suitable accommodation until the duty comes to an end, usually upon offer of a settled home. This may be local authority housing, private rented accommodation (of a minimum 12 month tenancy), or housing offered by a private provider.
I have served a prison sentence. Will I be considered to be in priority need as a result of being in prison?
The council have a duty to help secure accommodation for anybody leaving custody who is threatened with homelessness, regardless of priority need. If they are unable to prevent you from becoming homeless, they will need to assess whether you are in priority need for accommodation and are owed the main housing duty.
If you are vulnerable as a result of having served a custodial sentence, you will be considered in priority need of housing. The assessment of your vulnerability will look at:
- If you can cope with being homeless
- Any disabilities (including mental health issues) that affect your daily life
- The length of time you have served
- If you are under supervision of probation, a CRC or youth offending team, their views on your vulnerability
- The length of time since release and efforts made to secure or maintain accommodation during that period
- The support you have from family, friends or other services
- The risk of harm to you compared to the risk of harm to other homeless people
Supporting information from your offender manager, GP, psychiatrist, care coordinator, social worker or other agencies can help. The letter should set out what harm you will suffer if you are on the streets.
I gave up my council tenancy when I went to prison. Will I be considered as priority when I am released from prison?
It depends on the agreement you had with your council. If you had a documented agreement that they would rehouse you upon release if you gave up your accommodation, then they should honour that.
In most cases, people who give up their tenancies with no agreement with the council have to go through the homelessness application process, and a full assessment on priority need and vulnerability will be carried out. If the offence was related to the property, you will not normally be considered as priority need as you are considered to have made yourself intentionally homeless.
The council says that I made myself intentionally homeless by committing an offence. What can I do?
Councils should not operate blanket policies that find people who have been sentenced to a period of imprisonment intentionally homeless by committing an offence. All cases should be assessed according to individual circumstances.
In deciding whether you have made yourself homeless intentionally, the council should consider whether:
- You could have reasonably foreseen that, in committing the offence, you would be sent to prison and therefore have to give up your existing accommodation
- Had you not gone to prison, your accommodation would have continued to be available to you.
If you are not happy with the council’s decision, you should challenge it.
How can I challenge the council’s decision?
The council must provide written reasons for their decisions to you, together with the reasons for any decisions that are against your interests. You have the right to request a review of these decisions and you may be able to appeal to the county court.
The council may be able to house you pending the outcome of any review. For more details and for information about where you can get help to appeal council decisions, please see here.
I don’t want to return to my local area. What are my options?
If you want to move away from your local area, your main options will be to:
- stay with family or friends in a different area
- rent privately.
If you do not have a local connection to the area that you wish to move to, the council may only be able to offer limited assistance. Any council that you present to will have a duty to carry out an assessment and make a personalised housing plan. This should take into account your reasons for not wanting to return to your local area. However, if at the end of the plan period (usually 8 weeks) you have become homeless, they may refer you back to the area where you have your strongest local connection.
If you wish to move to an area where you have no friends or family whatsoever, and you do not have the means to rent privately, your best option might be to return to your local area for a couple of months as you will have more housing options there. This will give you time to make the necessary preparations for moving away.If you are on licence, you will need to check with your offender manager that it is OK for you to move to a new area, as you will probably need your supervision arrangements to be transferred.
Can I get help with renting a property?
To rent a property you will usually need:
- good character references, usually from a previous landlord or past employer
- money for a deposit and rent in advance
- money to cover your rent.
If you need help to pay your rent, you might be able to apply for housing benefit. The amount of housing benefit available to you will depend on where you live and who else lives with you, and is worked out according to the local housing allowance. Local housing allowance rates are set for different types of accommodation in each area. The rates range from a single room in a shared house up to properties with four bedrooms.
If you are under 35, you will only be able to get housing benefit to cover you for a room in a shared house. You must be at least 35 years old to qualify for a self-contained one-bedroom property. If you are 35 or over, the maximum housing benefit available is as follows:
|Type of property||Maximum housing benefit rate|
|Type of property||Maximum housing benefit rate|
|1-bed (or shared accommodation)||£268.46 per week|
|2-bed||£311.40 per week|
|3-bed||£365.09 per week|
|4-bed||£429.53 per week|
If you are relying on housing benefit to help pay your rent, you may find it difficult to find a landlord willing to let a property to you. You should speak to your local council’s housing department to help you find a landlord who will rent to people claiming housing benefit.
What are rent-deposit and rent-in-advance schemes?
These schemes aim to help people who cannot afford the deposit and/or rent in advance required to access the private rented sector. Such schemes will normally be provided by the local council, although sometimes they are managed by a charity or local housing association. You can find out if you can apply for schemes that are operating in your area by speaking to your local council’s housing department. Schemes normally have a maximum value or a number of weeks’ rent which will be covered. The deposit or rent in advance may come in the form of a:
- guarantee (more common)
- cash loan (less common).
In the case of a guarantee, no money will need to change hands, provided the landlord agrees that there has been no damage to the property during the course of the tenancy. If the landlord does wish to make a claim, you will normally be liable for this amount. In the case of a cash loan, you will need to repay this over an agreed period of time. Some schemes can also provide assistance with finding a landlord.
Services for people who are homeless and sleeping rough
- Local council
Your local council will offer housing options or housing advice during office hours. In some situations the council may have a duty to find you emergency accommodation and can make emergency referrals to hostels or night shelters. If you are under 18, the council’s social services department has a duty to help you. You can find your local council here.
- Day centres
Day centres are safe places to go during the day. They usually offer food, showers, clothes, medical assistance, housing advice and staff can make referrals to hostels and night shelters. Sometimes accommodation providers put aside a certain number of bed spaces which only day centres can refer to. This means they may be able to offer you more accommodation options.
- Outreach and support services
Outreach and support services can help you find a place in a hostel or night shelter. They may also know of local schemes available in your area that aren’t advertised. Outreach and support services are listed on Homeless UK.
Citizens Advice offers specialist housing and legal advice and can refer you to local support agencies that provide housing-related support.
Homeless UK lists services, including hostels, day centres and outreach and support services, for homeless people and those at risk of homelessness
NSNO helps people who are new to sleeping on the streets and can provide a safe place to stay for one or two nights. NSNO staff refer people on to other support and accommodation providers to find longer-term accommodation. The service is only available in some cities: please see here for further details.
Refugee Action provides advice to refugees and asylum seekers and can help those who want to return to their home country. You can call their Choices Assisted Voluntary Return service on 0808 800 0007.
Shelter provides advice and guidance on housing and homelessness. You can call their housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444 Monday-Friday 8am-8pm and Saturday-Sunday 8am-5pm. Shelter also has advice centres across England where you can get face-to-face advice. These are listed here.
This 24-hour helpline is for women experiencing or fleeing domestic violence, or family, friends, colleagues and others calling on their behalf. You can call them on 0808 2000 247. Their advisers can refer you to safe emergency accommodation. If you are in immediate danger call 999.