The Prisons Advice and Care Trust (Pact) is the major Catholic charity supporting prisoners and their families. Cardinal Vincent Nichols is Pact’s president and Bishop Richard Moth also works closely with the charity in his role as Liaison Bishop for Prisons.
Earlier this year, Pact commissioned a new report: Preventing Homelessness Amongst Former Prisoners in England and Wales. The report was funded by the London Housing Foundation and research was led by Royal Holloway University. Informed by the extraordinary Everyone In efforts during the pandemic, this substantial piece of work aimed to rigorously reflect on key learning. It also ‘ call[s] upon national Government to develop a long-term strategy to ensure that there is real leadership and accountability to ensure that everyone leaving prison has somewhere to live’.
There is certainly work to be done. The Ministry of Justice has published data on accommodation outcomes for prisoners released between April 2020 to March 2021:
- 2.5% of prisoners were released to rough sleeping, a decrease of 1.5% from 2019/20 outcomes
- 12% of prisoners were released to homelessness or rough sleeping, a decrease of 5% from 2019/20 outcomes
- 14% were released to unsettled accommodation, an increase of 4% from 2019/20 outcomes
- A total of 16,418 prisoners were released to rough sleeping, homelessness or their accommodation outcome was unknown
A number of initiatives have been announced by government over the last few months. In advance of Prisoners’ Sunday on 10th October, Pact’s CEO Andy Keen-Downs highlights Pact’s significant role in maintaining momentum around this issue. He says:
“as well as working inside prison, and in the community, to support people’s rehabilitation after prison, with the support of Baroness Louise Casey, Pact is now bringing together senior government officials and experts from the homelessness sector to tackle the continued blight of too many people being trapped in the revolving doors of prison and homelessness…We recognise this is complex and challenging and will take sustained investment. But we must learn the lessons from what has been successful during the pandemic, and we must also recognise that we are now facing a perfect storm.”