Policy Manager Nicola Drinkwater looks at a relaunched government scheme to support people at risk of homelessness during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Accessing safe, secure and suitable accommodation is one of the biggest challenges facing people in contact with the criminal justice system. This is something that Clinks and our members strongly believe, and that we consistently advocate for through our government influencing work. Our recent research has shown that this challenge has become even more acute in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the positive action taken by services during the first lockdown – especially under the ‘everyone in’ initiative – we have seen homelessness rise because housing options have quickly become exhausted.
We therefore welcome Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) relaunching its scheme to support people at risk of homelessness during the Covid-19 pandemic. As part of this scheme the Ministry of Justice is seeking suppliers with access to immediately available accommodation stock to accommodate individuals released from prison and at risk of being homeless.
We have arranged for HMPPS to attend our event, ‘Criminal justice network meeting – England’ [17th November, 14:00-15:30, online, free], to give more details about the scheme and what opportunities there are for voluntary sector organisations. Find out more here
The temporary accommodation scheme has been available to eligible prison leavers from 22nd October, closing to new entrants on 21st January 2021. Individuals will receive accommodation support for up to 56 nights at a nightly rate of up to £65. The last individuals aided through the scheme can be supported until 18th March 2021*.
- The government has decided that because of public health and public protection considerations, there is a need to reinstate its scheme to provide accommodation for prison leavers who are at risk of homelessness.
- The scheme is similar to the one that closed to new entrants on 31st August. However, there are variations, mainly that to qualify a probation region must have some local authority areas that are in Tier 2 - High or Tier 3 – Very High, on the Government’s COVID-19 tiering approach.
- Wales currently does not operate the three-tier approach; however, the existing local restriction and lockdown arrangements are similar with elements of the tiered model and therefore it is possible to conclude that significant regions of Wales are equal to Tier 2 – High and/or Tier 3 – Very High.
The scheme is open to the following homeless service users:
- Individuals at risk of homelessness following release from prison
- Individuals released through Home Detention Curfew, who are at risk of being homeless upon getting their conditional release date; Special Purpose ROTL Compassionate Releases.
Subject to funding and regional priorities, the following people will also be considered:
- Current residents at risk of homelessness following move-on from Approved Premises and Bail Accommodation and Support Services (BASS)
- Individuals remanded upon conditional bail, subject to provision of suitable accommodation.
- The scheme is designed so that those eligible will receive potential accommodation support equivalent to up to 56 nights at a nightly rate of up to £65. This means that up to £3,640 will be available to Probation Providers to utilise in whatever way best meets the needs of that individual. The funds can be used to pay for nightly let accommodation, they can also be used towards the cost of access into the Private Rented Sector, for example rent deposit or rent in advance.
- HMPPS is very keen to work collaboratively with the voluntary sector, local authorities and other housing providers to prevent individuals from being homeless or rough sleeping
- The scheme’s objective is to facilitate the migration of an individual from temporary accommodation to long-term settled accommodation
- For further information about the scheme please contact your Regional Homeless Prevention Team (details below) to discuss further or the central email address - CentralHPT@justice.gov.uk.
East, Kent, Surrey, Sussex
South West, South Central
North West, Greater Manchester
North East, Yorkshire, Humberside
Clinks’ work on accommodation for people in the criminal justice system
I recently wrote an essay published as part of Commonweal Housing’s Locked out anthology – and took part in their accompanying podcast series – which explores the links between accommodation and social injustice. Here I outlined some of the challenges people in contact with the criminal justice system experience in accessing accommodation and advocated for a cross-departmental accommodation strategy. Clinks published a Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group paper with this recommendation in 2018.
Alongside our members, Clinks sits on the Homeless Health and people in touch with the justice system group convened by NHS England and NHS Improvement. This brings together civil servants including those from the Ministry of Justice, HM Prisons and Probation and the Department for Health and Social Care. The group works to share current priorities and practice, as well as collectively working to develop solutions to accommodation challenges impacting people in contact with the justice system. We’ll continue to advocate for change in this area, including through this group.
*Updated 25th January: Due to the ongoing pandemic, a further £3m funding has been allocated and the scheme will now be extended to 31st March 2021, subject to regular review. This means that individuals may receive support up to 26th May 2021.
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We are extremely disappointed that the JCVI advice on phase 2 of the COVID vaccination programme does not prioritise people in prison and those who work with them, including voluntary sector staff and volunteers https://gov.uk/government/publications/priority-groups-for-phase-2-of-the-coronavirus-covid-19-vaccination-programme-advice-from-the-jcvi/jcvi-interim-statement-on-phase-2-of-the-covid-19-vaccination-programme