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.


5.1. This chapter presents a summary of the overall findings of this study, and the authors’ suggestions for the next steps as suggested by the findings. These have been based on the findings presented in Chapters 2-4 and Annexes 2-6 of this report.

Overall findings

5.2. Overall, the findings of this research are consistent with, and supplement those from previous studies (detailed in Chapter 1 and Annexe 2, and in Shelter [2015]). The research found that people who serve short sentences in Scotland can face a range of housing issues at different stages.

5.3. On imprisonment, these can relate to arrangements to: keep or surrender existing accommodation; secure the property; retrieve possessions; and ensure accommodation arrangements for any dependents are made (pgh 2.3). During a sentence and approaching release, these can relate to: addressing any changing housing circumstances; developing independent living skills; making financial arrangements; and identifying accommodation for release (pgh 2.17). On, and following release, these can relate to: obtaining and moving into accommodation; responding to changing housing circumstances; managing accommodation; and accessing other support (pgh 2.32).

5.4. People who serve short sentences may need services to support them at each of these stages to address these issues. The research found that housing problems could have a negative impact on: health and well-being; learning and employment and desistance (pghs 2.46-2.60). Where support was provided, there were views that this could contribute not only to positive housing outcomes, but also to other positive outcomes (pghs 3.59-3.86).

5.5. The research (Chapter 3) described a range of housing-related services for people who serve short sentences. Prison staff, housing staff, throughcare and other specialist staff were found to: offer assistance to identify housing issues and explore options; carry out work with individuals to address housing issues; share information; and work with staff of other services to provide co-ordinated support.

5.6. The research also highlighted a number of current gaps in, and barriers to housing-related service provision and receipt (Chapter 4). These included gaps in the availability and consistency of services at each stage, and a number of cross-cutting barriers affecting all stages. The recommendations below focus on addressing these gaps and barriers and reflect the suggestions made (pghs 4.68-4.75 and detailed in Annexe 6).

Potential next steps suggested by the findings

5.7. Because the research findings found differences in the availability and level of support, and the nature of practice (pgh 4.2), which participants suggested could be addressed by a more coherent overall approach to tackling housing and reoffending (pgh 4.69), we suggest that national direction and a clear commitment from the Scottish Government, the SPS and local community justice partners (which includes housing and homelessness services) will be needed.

1: The Scottish Government, the SPS, social housing providers and community justice partners should give consideration to how best to ensure consistent services are provided in prison to give advice and support with housing issues to those who serve short sentences. Any resulting plans for action should be in keeping with other Government justice strategies.

5.8. To overcome this variation in the availability of housing staff and coverage of reintegration services (pgh 4.30), some participants recommended a more widespread adoption of the Housing Options approach to housing work in prison and in the community (pghs 4.70-71) to ensure consistency of implementation, and a review of SPS housing policy and practice (pghs A6:22-25) to address quality issues. Many participants put forward the need for adequate funding, staffing and accommodation (pgh 4.73) to meet the level of demand (pghs 4.47-4.51) at an appropriate level of quality.

2: The SPS and social housing providers should give consideration to setting out a consistent standard for providing services in all prisons to give advice and support with housing issues to those who serve short sentences, and on release into the community including adoption of a Housing Options approach.

5.9. Participants were concerned by the current lack of a national body or local structure for tackling housing and reoffending issues (pgh 4.40).

3: Consideration should be given to Community Justice Scotland having national leadership of housing and reoffending overseeing the development of improved local support through monitoring of the new national strategy for community justice and the national performance framework with local partners.

5.10. A common suggestion, by many participants of all types, was a need for better information-sharing and communication (pghs 4.42 and 4.72).

4: The Scottish Government, the SPS and social housing providers should give consideration to facilitating information-sharing on housing problems (including for example arrears) between their services, at national and local levels. The aim of this would be more joined-up service delivery and a lack of duplication.

5.11. Suggestions were made (pgh 4.73) to address reported gaps in statistical information (pgh 4.38) which were seen to obscure the scale of housing issues, gaps in provision, and potential improvements.

5: The Scottish Government, the SPS and social housing providers should give consideration to how outcomes for those who serve short sentences can be recorded, making best use of existing data sources. The aim of this would be to record the scale and nature of any issues and identify any improvements.

5.12. The research found evidence of gaps in awareness of housing issues among staff and those serving short sentences (pgh 4.52), and concerns about judgemental attitudes and behaviour (pgh 4.56), so many suggestions were made about developing understanding and awareness of the nature and impact of housing issues and the support needed (pgh 4.74).

6: The SPS should give consideration to ensuring that relevant staff receive basic Housing Options and advice training to ensure that clear information on housing is given to individuals who serve short sentences.

5.13. Because the research found that other policy areas (particularly welfare and sentencing) could impact on housing issues (pghs 4.62-4.67) and consequently on risks of reoffending, it is thought likely that relevant policy makers and practitioners might be unaware of their possible contribution to reducing reoffending.

7: The Scottish Government and the SPS should give consideration to providing information to policy makers and professionals in other areas (for example, sentencing, health, social security) about how they could contribute to achieving positive outcomes for people who serve short sentences through consideration of housing issues.


Email: Julie Guy

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