Date lodged: 21 August 2017
To ask the Scottish Government what processes are in place to measure and address (a) the housing difficulties of and (b) poverty among offenders, (i) generally and (ii) upon release from prison.
Answered by: Michael Matheson 7 September 2017
The Scottish Government (SG) is committed to supporting prisoners to secure appropriate housing on release, and to addressing homelessness amongst prisoners and their families. All prisoners who are assessed by local authorities as unintentionally homeless upon liberation are entitled to settled accommodation as a legal right. A wide range of activity to prevent homelessness amongst offenders upon liberation continues to progress across Scotland, with the involvement of local authorities and the Housing Options Hubs.
The SG and the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), together with national housing organisations and other stakeholders, are supporting on-going work to develop a consistent and shared approach to housing provision for prisoners across the country, focussing on the coordination and planning of offenders’ housing needs while in custody and on liberation.
SPS staff ascertain each individual’s immediate housing circumstances within 72 hours of entry to prison as part of the core screening process, and make appropriate referrals as necessary to address specific issues.
Links Centres within prisons provide facilities for external organisations such as Job Centre Plus, housing officers, Citizens Advice Bureau and Welfare Rights officials, to offer prisoners access to a range of services that they may require, both during their sentence, and as part of pre-release planning. The Department for Work and Pensions place Job Centre Plus staff in all prisons to assist with access to employment and benefits.
Furthermore, individuals completing sentences under 4 years are offered one-to-one help to support their reintegration back to the community, by the SPS’ Throughcare Support Officers (TSO), and by third sector offender mentoring services
The SPS Prisoner Records System (PR2) does not measure or report on housing or financial difficulties that people in or leaving prison face (although the SPS’ TSO service does record specific data on individuals it supports). The SPS Prisoner Survey is taken every two years, and includes questions about prisoners housing circumstances before and after their sentence. Individuals are also asked if they have accessed services in relation to housing and welfare benefits during their sentence.
The Scottish Government does not hold separate information for offenders as a specific group. Offenders who are not in prison would engage with housing, welfare and benefits services as members of the general population, and their interactions would not be recorded separately.