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Multiple barriers to housing for young people leaving custody

By Caroline Drummond, Policy & Public Affairs Manager at Nacro

‘I was rough sleeping more or less I was just knocking about. I did all-nighters in cars for one or two nights, here, there, going mates houses. I was about for a little bit.’

Shockingly, this was not an unusual story for the young people that we spoke to as part of a report we released last week with Centrepoint – ‘Have you got anybody you can stay with?’.This report on housing options for young adults leaving custody was based on our conversations with young people and the practitioners working with them. At Nacro, we know that housing is absolutely critical to helping young people to turn their lives around and away from crime, yet the challenges and obstacles in the way of securing a safe and stable home on release from custody remain huge.

Many of the findings of our work will not be surprising – unacceptable waiting times to access Universal Credit, barriers to social housing and a lack of early resettlement planning. It is a bleak state of affairs that doesn’t seem to have improved, despite housing consistently being referenced by the sector as a major challenge to effective and sustainable resettlement. This issue has also been highlighted by the recent report by the Prison Reform Trust and Women in Prison on housing for women leaving custody.

So what can be done in the short to medium term to alleviate some of these barriers? Within our report, we have called for a number of practical recommendations that can be addressed immediately, while we also wait to see how the Homelessness Reduction Act will improve the current situation.

Crucial to all of this is a cross-departmental approach – the Ministry of Justice need to work with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government as well as the Department for Work and Pensions on this. We know that effective resettlement only works when things join up, not just on the ground but at the highest level. The responsibility to reduce crime, prevent further victims and help people move on with their lives does not just lie with one single department.