Can I get any help with money on release?
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 of about £50 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.
Stonham operates the bail and support scheme (BASS) which offers accommodation to those 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 Resettlement Advice Service on 0300 123 1999 for advice on other housing providers who accept applications from those on tag.
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), 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.
If you are worried about where you will live for the duration of your licence, you can call our Resettlement Advice Service on 0300 123 1999.
I will be homeless on release. What are my options?
Family and friends
Most 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
- Direct access hostels
- 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
You can find details of local night shelters, direct access hostels and day centres here. Alternatively, you can contact our Resettlement Advice Service on 0300 123 1999 for advice.
If you are applying for housing as a single, homeless person, the council will provide very limited support unless you are assessed as being in a priority group. This is because there is a shortage of council and housing association places, which means that the council can only provide housing to the most vulnerable people.
It is still worth writing to your local council up to 28 days before your release, in case you are one of the few who will qualify for housing. If you do not qualify, the council will still provide information about other local housing options which might help you to find accommodation.
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 will be homeless on release. Can I get help from the council?
In most cases, the help you will get from the council will be extremely limited and will involve quite a lengthy decision-making process. To qualify for housing as a homeless person, you will usually have to meet all of the following criteria:
- be eligible for assistance (for instance, to come from the UK and not be an asylum seeker or have limited rights to remain)
- be in a priority group
- be unintentionally homeless
- have a local connection.
Unless you are returning to Wales, you will not be considered a priority just because you have been in prison. You will need to provide evidence of vulnerability. Prison and probation staff may be able to support your application. Even if the council decides that you are vulnerable due to time spent in prison, it may decide that you became intentionally homeless by committing a serious crime in the first place.
In England, priority groups include:
- pregnant women
- those who are responsible for dependent children
- young people aged 16 or 17
- care leavers
- others who may be considered vulnerable:
– older applicants
– those with disabilities or mental health problems
– those who have left the armed forces, a young offender institution or prison
– people under the age of 25 who are vulnerable due to sleeping on the streets in the past or problems with drugs or alcohol.
If the council accepts that you are eligible for assistance, in priority need and homeless, the council must provide temporary accommodation whilst it investigates how you became homeless and whether you have a local connection.
To receive help from the council, you must be unintentionally homeless. If you chose to leave a home that you could have stayed in or it was your fault that you lost your home, the council is likely to decide that you have made yourself intentionally homeless and will therefore have no duty to help you. The most common reasons for being deemed intentionally homeless are supplying drugs, not paying rent and consequently running up arrears and, occasionally, committing a crime and risking imprisonment and consequently homelessness. If you are assessed as being in a priority group but that you have made yourself intentionally homeless, the council might give you temporary accommodation for a short time (a few weeks) while you find your own accommodation.
If you are eligible for assistance from the council, in a priority group and have been made unintentionally homeless, the council will need to decide if you have a local connection to the council area to which you have applied. You are likely to be considered to have a local connection to an area if:
- you have lived in the area for six out of the last 12 months, or three out of the last five years. Time spent in prison in an area does not count towards this.
- you have a close family member living in the area and this member has lived there for a minimum of five years, and is still resident (a close family member is defined as a mum, dad, sister, brother, or adult child)
- you have secured work in the area and have an employment contract.
Each council may have other criteria that they will consider, so it is a good idea to check with the council to which you are applying. For example, some councils will consider you to have a local connection if you are currently living in the area or if your children attend school locally.
If you do not have a local connection to the council area to which you have applied, the council may refer you to another area where you do have a local connection. The council for that area will then have to help you.
If you do not have a local connection anywhere, perhaps because you have been in prison for a long time or have no relatives in the UK, you can apply to any council and it will normally be the case that the first council you approach for rehousing will have a duty to help you.
If the council decides that it is not your fault that you are homeless, that you are in a priority group and you have a local connection, they will then have to help you secure permanent housing. However, due to the shortage of council housing available and the numbers of people who are eligible for assistance, you may have to stay in bed and breakfast or other temporary accommodation for a long time before you are offered anywhere permanent.
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 cannot help you. Councils will not accept you onto their housing waiting lists just because you have aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents or friends who live in the area.
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 consider your options 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 can 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||£250 per week|
|2-bed||£290 per week|
|3-bed||£340 per week|
|4-bed||£400 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.