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Independent Monitoring Boards report on women leaving prison

New report

04 September 2020
Independent Monitoring Boards report on women leaving prison

The Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs) for women’s prisons in England have published a new report showing that almost 60% of women released from prison do not have settled accommodation to go to, and are either sofa surfing or ending up on temporary hostels to avoid being on the street.

Eighty women were interviewed by IMBs across ten prisons in February 2020. The results show that:

  • On arrival in prison, a quarter had lost their homes and one in six were already homeless
  • 41% said they had a permanent address to go to on release
  • 45% had no address to go to, and 14% only had a temporary address
  • Of this 59% with no settled home to go to, well over a third (40%) – equating to one in five of all the women taking part – said they would be homeless on release

Although the report highlighted examples of good practice, where a multi-disciplinary approach was bringing together staff in a prison, probation, health and voluntary organisations, it found that overall there was poor communication between different agencies that left women without support. Prisons are required to refer prisoners at risk of homeless to local authorities under the Homelessness Reduction Act but the local authority is only obliged to consider their housing needs and to provide advice and signposting. The IMBs showed there was often a gap between what women thought they were being offered and what was actually available.

Over half the women interviewed were serving prison sentences of less than six months, and the report found short sentences exacerbated the situation, as prisons and probation struggled to provide support for this cohort.

The report concludes that the failings identified cause 'maximum disruption and minimum… rehabilitation' and recommends the government tackle the problem of short prison sentences as well as introducing a joined-up approach to ensure women released from prison have the support they need.

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