Housing and Reoffending: Supporting people who serve short-term sentences to secure and sustain stable accommodation on liberation

The research focused on the problems that people who serve short sentences in Scotland have finding and keeping stable housing and the services that can help improve housing outcomes. The findings describe a complex cycle of housing problems faced by people serving short sentences, their interlinked causes and impacts and the difficulties these problems pose in desistance from offending.


  1. In Scotland, a short-term sentence is four years or less - referred to as a “short sentence” in this report.
  2. For the purposes of this study, housing-related services were taken to include any services which may enable (either directly or indirectly) service users to obtain or sustain housing.
  3. Throughcare involves the provision of a range of services to people from when they are first remanded or imprisoned, through their time in custody, and following their release (adapted from the National Objectives and Standards for Social Work Services in the Criminal Justice System).
  4. BAFC represents Barnardo’s/Action for Children – the organisations which lead on the project.
  5. At the time of writing, new guidance on the requirements for HDC was expected in the second half of 2015.
  6. Numbers in paragraphs 3.7-3.9 as at April 2015.
  7. Inverness CAB and Shelter are part of a project called “SPAN” (the Scottish Prisoners’ Advice Network).
  8. HMP Edinburgh had a housing service based in the prison and a visiting local authority service.
  9. https://www.scottishsentencingcouncil.org.uk/
  10. This Annexe will not cover findings about “what works” in relation to support to desist from offending. The work by Sapouna et al, 2015 provides a comprehensive summary of these issues.
  11. It was noted that, at the time of writing, the Scottish Government intended to consult on proposals to strengthen the presumption against short periods of imprisonment.
  12. http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Housing-Regeneration/HSfS
  13. The BAFC Moving On project is currently operating as a Public Social Partnership (PSP) covering four local authority areas.
  14. By the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001; and the Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003
  15. The development of the protocol pre-dates, and is separate to the Community Reintegration Project summarised earlier in this section.
  16. For ease of reading, this section combines provision at two stages (“on imprisonment” and “during a sentence and approaching release”). These have been discussed separately in Chapter 3 of the report.
  17. HMP Edinburgh had a housing service based in the prison and a visiting local authority service.
  18. All functions are in all prisons unless otherwise stated.
  19. The basis of PSPs was explained in Annex 2.
  20. Some of these organisations would also provide supported accommodation, and may undertake specific work to identify (and begin to address) housing issues prior to liberation, as well as being involved in reintegration work. These have been included as “other specialist services” rather than “housing” or “reintegration” services, to reflect the fact that they may have a wider role, and other areas of work alongside these. As noted in Annexe 1, the categories are not always mutually exclusive. Their purpose is to allow a description of how services work and interact.
  21. Peer supporters are generally individuals serving long sentences who provide various forms of information, reassurance and practical support to those serving short sentences.
  22. In discussions, some local authority housing staff indicated that the reason for this was that, in their experience, many individuals leaving prison would either miss their appointments, or attend late. Others indicated that their services operated on a “drop-in” basis for all clients.
  23. Where numbers are given, these relate to the findings of the survey.
  24. It is worth noting that 353 NFA liberations were for individuals remanded in custody and liberated from, or following a court appearance. Although these individuals were outside the scope of this research, it should be noted that they would be likely to face many of the same problems as those liberated from a sentence, but would be unlikely to have access to any form of reintegration support.
  25. Section 5 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 introduced new duties for RSLs to provide accommodation for homeless people. The duty was commenced in 2002.
  26. (The overall approach taken by the Scottish Government to working with women who offend was set out in Annexe 2.)
  27. The brief for the research did not include consideration of issues relating to sex offenders and no specific questions were asked about this group. The issues mentioned here were raised by participants in response to general questions about issues affecting specific groups.


Email: Julie Guy

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