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Nacro was a key contributor to the Justice Committee’s session on: Coronavirus (COVID-19): The impact on probation systems. The Committee has released a report on this session and will now launch an inquiry into ongoing reforms in the service.

Nacro’s External Engagement Director, Helen Berresford who attended the session, comments: “We are pleased to see the Committee recognise that ‘at the best of times, release from prison can be a difficult time for many, however, Covid-19 has created a very different environment for those released from prison to enter.’ This is supported by our own research with our prison resettlement staff and service users on their experiences during the pandemic. The Committee is right to recognise the work and response of people working in the probation system and the people being released from prison through this unprecedented time.

Housing

Helen Berresford, Director of External Engagement, Nacro, told the Committee that “housing is always one of the biggest challenges that we face in resettlement, and to be honest, it continues to be so.”

Nacro welcomes the Committee’s acknowledgement that ‘the transition from prison to the community is crucial in terms of addressing risk and reoffending.’ We support the Committee’s recommendation that the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS continue to keep the support scheme for individuals leaving prison under review to ensure that the housing needs of prison leavers continue to be met. We also support their additional recommendation that the Ministry set out what work is being done in the longer term to address the housing needs of prisoners on release from custody and to prevent homelessness. For far too long the scandal of people leaving prison homeless has not been tackled. We need to see a guarantee that everyone leaving prison will have somewhere to live

Support on leaving prison

Helen Berresford, Director of External Engagement, Nacro, told the Committee: “Regardless of whether someone is released early or on their scheduled release date, they need sufficient money to buy the essentials to give them a start outside of prison, often while they wait for benefits to be processed or to start a job. This is true at any time but even more so during the Coronavirus crisis where getting the essentials and the basics in place is even harder than usual.”

We welcome the Committee’s acknowledgement that ‘it is important that individuals released from prison continue to receive the support necessary to enable them to reintegrate into society and stop the cycle of offending.’

And their recommendation that the increase made to the Subsistence Grant available to those who have been released through the End of Custody Temporary Release Scheme be also made to the Discharge Grant, for those released in the ordinary course of events. They rightly acknowledge ‘both cohorts of prisoners will have resettlement needs that may be more difficult to achieve in current circumstances.’ But we also need to see a longerterm commitment to sufficient immediate financial support on release. The Discharge Grant has not increased for over 20 years. It’s critical people who leave prison have somewhere to live, can buy the basics and have the best chance at a second chance

Read the report from the Justice Select Committee here.