Saturday, 9 March 2019

Homelessness and the MoJ

Homelessness is at last becoming an issue that can no longer be ignored and as usual Frances Crook and the Howard League are in the vanguard of the debate. This piece is from inews:- 

We’re imprisoning homeless people for ‘annoying’ crimes – then giving them a tent on release

Some prisoners have been given tents when they are released because the local community rehabilitation company failed to find them accommodation. An investigation by councils in the North East found local homeless men had been released from prison and all they had been offered was a tent. In 2016 the chief inspector of prisons found that women released from Bronzefield prison, run by the French food company Sodexo, were given tents or sleeping bags on release.

Each year, some 60,000 men and women are given short prison sentences of less than six months. They tend to be convicted of annoying, minor offences and are often homeless, addicted and have health and mental health problems. When Chris Grayling privatised the part of the probation service that supervises community sentences, he gave private companies the additional responsibility of supervising these people. If they fail to turn up to appointments or phone in, they can be returned to prison for three weeks. They are often the homeless people we are now stepping over in the street in exploding numbers.

Sent away with £46 

Prisoners are given a discharge grant of £46 in cash, a sum that has not been increased for decades. The community rehabilitation companies are meant to do ‘through the gate’ support and find accommodation but, as the chief inspector of probation has reported, they are simply not doing it. People given a custodial remand, the majority of whom do not get a prison sentence, are given no support and no money, they can simply be pushed out of prison without even the tent. 

We all know, by experience and from evidence, that former prisoners need somewhere to live, something to do all day, and someone to care for them. The Howard League legal team fights every day to get children and young adults the support they need to lead law-abiding and positive lives, and housing is the often the biggest challenge we face. 

Trapped in a cycle of homelessness and prison 

The failure to build social housing for rent across the country means men and women are trapped in a cycle of homelessness and prison, with a tent or sleeping bag the only future on offer by authorities that are meant to be delivering justice. They stand little chance of getting off drugs or alcohol addiction or having their health needs cared for when they are sleeping rough. It seems extraordinary that as a nation we are prepared to spend thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, locking up people because they are annoying, and only a danger to themselves, yet we are unable to invest in the kind of support that would stop them being a nuisance and could help them into a safer and better life.

The system is broken. Both the secretary of state, David Gauke, and the prisons minister, Rory Stewart, have repeatedly said short prison sentences have no value and are even counter-productive. While the rhetoric and leadership is welcome, as yet, apart from warm words, there is no sign of legislation to sort this out. 

The recent report from the National Audit Office shows that the privatisation of community supervision has been an abject failure. The current plan proposed by the Government is to move the deckchairs round on the sinking ship by letting out new contracts to 10 companies instead of 21. 

We need to reinvest in a public service to deliver community justice and get rid of the profit motive from the justice system. We need to abolish short prison sentences that only do damage and cost the taxpayer a fortune. We need to invest in housing and services to prevent crime, protect victims and give people a chance to have a future we would want for ourselves and our children.

Frances Crook is CEO of the Howard League for Penal Reform


From CRC News Feb 2019

Consultation : Tackling Homelessness Together

MHCLG have launched their consultation on structures that support partnership working and accountability in homelessness. The consultation is a commitment within the Rough Sleeping Strategy and provides an opportunity to better understand what is currently happening in local areas, both where there is effective partnership working and where there is room for improvement.

The consultation also raises the possibility of introducing local Homelessness Reduction Boards. These Boards would bring together local delivery partners (such as those subject to the Duty to Refer, including Prisons and Probation Providers) in a forum through which they agree a strategic approach to reducing homelessness in their area, identify actions and interventions to drive systemic change, and hold one another to account for what they deliver.

We are aiming to submit a co-ordinated response across all probation services and would very much appreciate your views. We are circulating a template so please keep an eye out for this.

MHCLG will also be holding a number of workshops and roundtables so that they can continue to engage with local authorities and other stakeholders whilst the consultation is running and you are of course encouraged to engage with these and to submit individual responses directly should you wish to do so. 

Please send any questions or queries to
This consultation closes at 11:45pm on 16 May 2019.


From TTG Newsletter Edition 31 February 2019

Information from SWM CRC, regarding accommodation in the Birmingham Area 

Both the NPS and the local CRC are concerned about a significant issue which has arisen in the Birmingham area which could impact on public safety. There are many accommodation providers in this area who are keen to offer accommodation to CJS Service Users. Whilst some are of a good standard, some offer very poor accommodation with no support and there are a sizeable number that local CRC and NPS staff will not use due to serious concerns. There is also a tendency to place people with varying risks, vulnerabilities and complex needs in the same properties, creating additional risk issues. 

Unfortunately, without a national register or quality mark, colleagues across the country are not aware of these concerns and in some cases, have started to refer to Birmingham providers as a default for anyone who is homeless. We understand this includes Resettlement teams as well as Local Authorities and other agencies. 

There is very clear guidance in place via a Probation Instruction regarding transfer of people under supervision to a new CRC or NPS area. Unfortunately, it is often the case that this transfer protocol is not being followed and this means that both the NPS and the CRC have people turn up without any of the required checks and risk management arrangements put in place. This is something our Police and MAPPA colleagues are also very concerned about. 

Many of these placements break down very quickly creating additional challenges for everyone involved, not least the Service User who has no local support networks. Anecdotally we understand that in many cases, people make themselves homeless as they would rather live on the streets. 

Considering this situation, both the NPS and the CRC in the Birmingham area would like to appeal to all resettlement teams across the country and ask them to be very cautious about referring people from out of area to accommodation providers in Birmingham before checking out suitability. They can do this by contacting the Responsible Officer in the community who should ask for the address to be checked with the receiving service before they agree to the plan. Due to the concern we have about this situation, transfers that have taken place outside of agreed protocol and do not follow the PI will be very carefully considered and may not be accepted if sufficient notice has not been given and the accommodation is found to be unsuitable.


Meanwhile a reader has highlighted what's going on in that Tory strong-hold Kent:- 

"Could you post the below anonymously. 80 lost bed spaces for offenders in Kent will mean no move on accommodation from our one and only packed all the time AP. Homelessness will rocket in Kent for ex-offenders. AP will be bed blocked. Both articles relate to separate hostels that take ex-offenders/young people at risk and young offenders with no where to go. It also does not mention that Stonham hostels have another 40 bed spaces will also close. Potential for an 80 bed hostel in Sittingbourne to also close. This will happen on 31st March 2019 and will put the public massively at risk. In reality this means minimum 120 bed spaces. MOJ, NPS and CRC aware I hope they step in but this is not likely."

This from Kentonline:-

Kent's ex-offenders face homelessness due to a stand-off between Kent County Council and the Ministry of Justice

Ex-offenders face a life on the streets as a stand-off between two authorities continues over who should fund vital accommodation. Kent County Council has spent months arguing with the Ministry of Justice that former criminals should be the responsibility of the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Company. Graham Gibbens, cabinet member for adult social care and public health, has now written an urgent letter to Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke pleading with him to help resolve the dispute and avoid a "very public failure".

Cllr Gibbens revealed KCC spends almost £630,000 each year on funding help for those who have served their time for violent crimes and sexual offences despite cuts to their own revenue. A change of contracts handed out by the council means many charities, such as Pathways to Independence, must tell their current clients they will no longer have a roof over their heads from March 31.

In a letter to MP David Gauke, Cllr Gibbens said: 

"I am writing to draw your urgent attention to around 80 offenders in Kent that face eviction from their accommodation on March 31 because neither the National Probation Service or the Community Rehabilitation Company will provide the necessary supervision and rehabilitation support. I know that the Police and Crime Commissioner is among those who are extremely concerned that offenders, including those on the sex offenders register and those having committed violent offences, will be leaving their accommodation, many midway through their support plans. To date the council has been funding and commission these offender-related services but cannot continue to do so. It is clearly the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice. Against the backdrop of significant reduction in revenue support which in Kent has reduced from £225 million to £9 million for the coming year. We are currently spending £629,368 per annum on the service.

Council Officers have over several months now tried to engage with the NPS and CRC so they can make appropriate arrangements to no avail. I suspect that you are not aware of this and what will be a very public failure by the Ministry of Justice to support this group of people with the increase in risk that they will reoffend and the implications for the wider justice system. You will appreciate that the failure of the NPS and CRC to provide the appropriate supervision and rehabilitation support that will enable them to stay in their accommodation is causing considerable alarm across our communities. I trust you will be able to intervene and reassure us accordingly."

Helen Campbell-Wroe, co-director of Pathways to Independence, helps provide accommodation through six hostels to 37 individuals who have a criminal history. She said: 

"This organisation has been providing ex-offenders with this service for more than 30 years. These people have done their time and tariff. This week I am serving a 28-day notice. We as a homeless charity are having to make people homeless which is awful. This is removing 40% of our funding in one fell swoop. The main issues are where the men are going to go and that these provisions have been removed entirely from Kent."

Last week it was revealed young adults, many vulnerable, were told they would no longer be able to live at Trinity Foyer, in Church Street, Maidstone, following a change of service provider. People aged 18-24 will have to find alternative accommodation or face being homeless on April 1.

Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott added: "I share Kent County Council’s concerns about the need to find a long-term solution to this potential problem and hope that you might be able to assist. Kent County Council’s strong leadership in taking on this gap in provision has been welcome. But with their resources being further stretched, and those of both Kent Police and my office not in a position to take up the funding gap, we need another approach."

The Ministry of Justice said the National Probation Service has to liaise with councils to secure accommodation for ex-offenders, even if it isn't a housing provider itself, and insists 230 more beds at bail hostels will be provided over the next two years.

A spokesperson added: “Kent County Council has made a decision not to invest in accommodation services to ex-offenders and we continue to work closely with them over options moving forwards. As part of the Government’s efforts to encourage long-term rehabilitation and ultimately reduce reoffending, we are working to ensure that everyone leaving prison has access to secure and stable accommodation. We’re investing £22 million in through-the-gate services to strengthen ties with key partners, including the third sector, local authorities and the police. We have also started a £6 million scheme that will help them stay off the streets and away from crime.”

A spokesman for Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company, said: “New laws in 2015 stripped probation services of their budget to provide supported accommodation to offenders, shifting the statutory responsibility to councils. We continue to supervise the people affected by this decision but have no remit or funding to provide housing. We will continue to work with the council to find a solution.”


  1. Homelessness is a scurge that dosen't need to be. Its just one sympthom of a deseased society. It a desease mostly caused by free market neolibral ideology.
    Privatised probation is not the sole cause of homelessness when it comes to ex offenders, but they should be forced to do much much more.
    All over the country the private sector has been let loose to feed on the housing market. And they've greedily feasted from the table. Half built hospitals in Liverpool and Birmingham. Huge multi million pound developments in Liverpool and Manchester left to rot with investors life savings gobbled up on promises not delivered on.
    In the last 10 years in Liverpool alone 50 thousand student units of accomodation have been built, but no social housing. Indeed, some units have been built at the cost of social housing.
    Private landlords won't rent to people on benefits anymore, yet once the benefit tennents were the staple of the private renting sector.
    Councils like Kent won't give provision for exoffenders because they see it as private probations problem, and as CRCs are in it for profit it's easy for the council to argue that position.
    Other councils take the view that being sent to prison is an act of intentional homelessness and refuse assistance.
    The areas on the outskirts of many cities, once the shitpits of the worst social housing, are being gentrified and the poorer locals are being forced out because they can't afford the ever increasing rents. Its creating the uptown downtown syndrome that can be seen in the states. Poverty is becoming concentric. The further from the centre of town, the poorer you are.
    I remember Notting Hill being a no go area, densely ethnically populated and poor. Now it's a playground for millionaires.
    Holloway prison has just been sold for £82m and 1000 properties approved to be built on the site. All sorts of promises as to what those properties will be, but it won't materialise as stated. 1000 properties on a prime London site with its value increasing yearly? £82m is a snip, and whatever promises have been made for a persentage to be affordable or for social rent, the reality is its just to damn profitable to allow the great unwashed in!
    The housing market has become corrupted by neoliberal free market exploitation. Its destroying communities and our high streets. Even the House of Fraser on Oxford Street can no longer compete. Its urber prime retail location, but £4.5m a year in business rates alone?
    It's money, money, money. People matter too, but not as much as money, and if there's no profit, well sorry, move along.
    With particular regard to the MoJ and CRCs, I really don't understand how someone can be sent to prison, be processed through their supervision period and end up back in a doorway and some privateer can profit for achieving an outcome. In reality they're just creating repeat customers to profit from again next time around.
    Society is defined by a series of stand alone capital letters today, there's no joined up handwriting anymore. Fragmented and compartmentalised. Everyone consentrated on their own little bit of the market with no responsibility to others.
    Tent cities today, but it's only a stepping stone towards the shanty towns of tommorow.

    There is a good news storey to share today however.


  2. The MoJ know what's happening, and knew their reforms would accentuate the problem.
    The Guardian 2018 June.

    1. 13 August 2018:-

      More than 100,000 prisoners left detention for unsettled or unknown accommodation over the last three years, Ministry of Justice figures have revealed, raising concerns over the numbers of ex-offenders who could be sleeping rough.

      The figures come as the government announced plans to tackle the epidemic of homeless ex-prisoners. Almost half of the 220,411 prisoners released over the last three years left prison for accommodation that was either not tracked by authorities or were classified as “unsettled”.

      Around one in six former prisoners were classified as unsettled, likely to mean sleeping rough or another form of homelessness, between April 2015 and March 2018.

      The figures, obtained by the Liberal Democrats through a freedom of information request, revealed that HMP Norwich released 72% of its prisoners to unsettled or unknown accommodation over two years, the highest proportion of any prison.

      A total of 45 prisons released the majority of their prisoners to such accommodation in that period.

      Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesman, whose party analysed the MoJ figures, said he was concerned those prisoners who had fallen through the cracks would not be able to access vital rehabilitation services.

      “To prevent reoffending, prisons should be places of rehabilitation and recovery, and that work must continue when offenders leave the prison gates,” Davey said.

      “The thousands of people who have nowhere to go upon release are less likely to be able to get a job or have access to education or healthcare.

      “It’s hardly surprising that some turn to stealing or even choose to go back to prison for the sake of a warm, dry bed. The criminal justice system is fundamentally failing when people are reoffending just to get a meal or a place to sleep.”

      On Monday, the government announced it would invest £3m a year over two years in a pilot scheme for dedicated officers in prison to equip inmates for life outside, with a focus on getting those serving short sentences into suitable housing.

      Prisons minister Rory Stewart said ensuring prisoners had a stable home was vital to avoiding re-offending. “Too many rough sleepers come straight from prison – moving from their jail cells into this outdoor life of isolation, vulnerability and addiction,” he wrote in a blog for the MoJ.

      “On the streets, without a job, without mental health support, or a bed for the night – they are sucked back into a criminal life, reoffend, and soon end up back in prison. We must do much more to help rough sleepers, and ex-prisoners in particular, to find a house and re-establish a more stable life.”

      Stewart said it was “vital for public safety” that ex-prisoners were reintegrated into society. “It is protecting all the potential victims of their crime – and reducing the burden of reoffending that costs the public £15 billion a year,” he said.

      “Thus, preventing rough sleeping among ex-prisoners is good for them, good for the streets, and good for the public who will be better protected from the misery of crime.”

  3. "Society is defined by a series of stand alone capital letters today, there's no joined up handwriting anymore."

    Yep. For 40 years UK society has been subjected to the burgeoning politics of fear, dumbing down & pre-meditated lies of the priveleged few. While they steal £billions from the public purse to enhance their own lifestyles they sneer at the 'little people'.

  4. From today's main blog-piece: "We’re imprisoning homeless people for ‘annoying’ crimes – then giving them a tent on release"

    In fact, through a range of targetted policies, the few have:

    - imposed Universal Credit
    - removed education opportunities
    - reduced local authority budgets
    - cut social services provision
    - dumped the bankers' debts on the nation
    - created an 'age of austerity' for the many

    this government has made most of the homeless homeless, and then imprisoned the homeless people for ‘annoying’ crimes, giving them a tent on release, for the use of which the authorities will press further charges & return the homeless to prison.

  5. More on the end of Interserve as we know it....

    1. Interserve's banks have lined up a prepack administration that will wipe out existing shareholders but enable the heavily indebted outsourcer to avoid a Carillion-style collapse.

      The move will allow hedge funds Emerald, Cerberus and Angelo Gordon along with lenders including RBS to take control of Interserve without the agreement of shareholders if the company loses a crucial vote on a debt-for-equity swap this Friday

      It would mean Interserve — one of the UK’s biggest government contractors — could continue trading, protecting the jobs of its 45,000 UK staff and enabling it to maintain services such as nursing in people’s homes as well as the cleaning and maintenance of hospitals, prisons, schools and jobcentres.

      The company employs 65,000 people worldwide and earns two-thirds of its £2.9bn a year revenues from the British government. It is fighting for survival after warning of a multimillion-pound cash shortfall by the end of the month that could disrupt payments to subcontractors, employees and pensioners and threaten the delivery of essential public services.

      Interserve’s market capitalisation of £27m is dwarfed by its £738m net debt. It also owes a substantial instalment on the £80m in interest that is due this year.

      One banker close to the talks said the company had learnt the lessons of Carillion, the rival government contractor that collapsed in January last year.

      “This is not going to be a Carillon-style collapse, so the 45,000 UK employees of this company should all be sleeping comfortably,” he said.

      “If the transaction is voted down, a pre-pack will occur on Monday and business will carry on as usual,” he said. “All the work has been done in advance. The new Interserve will emerge with considerable strength, regardless of the outcome on Friday.”

      Interserve’s management, led by chief executive Debbie White, will step up its charm offensive this week, seeking to win support for its proposals from the company’s smaller shareholders, which include Hargreaves Lansdown and Standard Life. Under Interserve’s plan, the creditors would take over the business in a £480m deal that would see lenders swap their debt for equity in the company.

      Coltrane Asset Management, the US hedge fund and largest Interserve shareholder with 27 per cent of voting rights, opposes the proposals. It demanded the meeting on March 15 to vote against the company’s plan amid concerns that shareholders would all but be wiped out by the deal. Existing shareholders would be left with just 5 per cent of the company. The value of Coltrane’s shareholding has slipped from an estimated £25m to £3m.

      Coltrane has proposed an alternative deal, which would see it underwrite a rights issue and inject emergency liquidity into the company. It has also called for the removal of Glyn Barker, 65, Interserve’s chairman, and most of the rest of the board. Coltrane declined to comment.

      It is understood that companies such as Emerald, a private equity vehicle backed by the Scottish pub tycoon Alan Macintosh, stand to make millions after buying about £140m of Interserve’s debt in the secondary market last year for as little as 50p in the pound.

      Institutional Shareholder Services, a proxy adviser, has rallied behind Interserve’s management on the grounds that the debt for equity swap will “avoid potential insolvency”.

    2. Glass Lewis, another proxy adviser also swung behind Interserve on Friday. It said Coltrane had failed to engage with debt holders and the hedge fund’s proposal would require creditors to “write off a significantly larger part of their debt” than under Interserve’s deleveraging plan. Glass Lewis argues that Interserve’s management has owned up to key problems, such as an over-levered capital structure, and there is no time to agree an alternative plan.

      Many institutional investors automatically follow the voting recommendations of proxy advisers. Other large investors use them to complement their own analysis, which often gives proxy advisers a decisive role in boardroom battles. Standard Life, which holds 4.6 per cent of the company, has indicated its support for Interserve’s management.

      Interserve ran into trouble after a series of ill-timed acquisitions, lossmaking contracts and a disastrous venture into energy from waste plants, from which it is still struggling to recover. It is paying out more than three times its stock market valuation in fees to to negotiate the proposed emergency refinancing to City advisers including Rothschild investment bank, Numis, the broker, Ashurst, and Slaughter and May, the legal firms. The £90m in fees is equivalent to the cash that the company will be left with if the £895m restructuring is successful.