If you were recently released from prison, find out what practical support is available and how the council can help
Housing assistance if you're single and homeless
For the council to be legally obliged to provide you with accommodation it will have to be satisfied that you are eligible, homeless, in priority need and that you have not made yourself intentionally homeless. The council will take into account the time spent in prison when deciding how to help you, even if it has been some time since you were released.
The council will also look at whether you:
- have a mental illness
- have a learning disability or physical disability
- are under 21 and have been in care and are under 21
- were in the armed forces
- are fleeing violence or threats of violence.
Please note, if you apply to the council for housing assistance because you are homeless, we might not necessarily be legally obliged to provide you with accommodation. Its duty to you might be limited to just providing you with advice and assistance. Also the council could decide not to provide you with permanent accommodation if it considers that you made yourself intentionally homeless.
Are you in priority need?
The council might decide you are in priority need because you have spent time in prison or on remand. The council will consider whether you should be regarded as being vulnerable by virtue of the fact that you are homeless. This has a particular meaning for homelessness applications and is not the same as being labelled vulnerable in prison.
When considering your homelessness application, the council will look at the following:
- the length of time you spent in prison
- if any third party support is being provided to you either by the probation service, a youth offending team, or drug and alcohol team
- evidence provided by any third party (including any housing needs assessment) about your homelessness vulnerability
- the period of time since your release from prison and how successful you have been in finding your own accommodation and in keeping that accommodation
- any third party support networks such as family, friends or a probation officer
- evidence of any other vulnerability such as mental health problems, drug or alcohol misuse, or a history of having been in care
- any other factors that might have an impact on your ability to find accommodation yourself
The fact that you have been in prison does not in itself mean that the council has to treat you as being vulnerable and in priority need for accommodation. The council will need to assess the evidence before it can be satisfied that you will find it difficult to seek out and maintain accommodation for yourself compared to other people who are rendered homeless.
To find out more about how the council decides if you're in priority need call 01263 516375 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you intentionally homeless?
The council's Housing Options team may decide that you are intentionally homeless if you:
- were evicted from your previous home because of criminal or antisocial behaviour
- got into arrears with your rent resulting from your time in prison
- gave up your tenancy because your entitlement to housing benefit ended during a period in prison
Also the council may take the view that you should have known that your criminal activity could have resulted in you being sent to prison, and that this could lead to the loss of your home.
The council is less likely to decide this if the loss of your home wasn't a result of you being sent to prison. For example, if you made an arrangement for another person to pay the rent while you were away but that arrangement broke down.
If the council decides you are intentionally homeless, it will only offer you limited help with finding housing. If you are in priority need, you may be offered temporary accommodation for a short period of time to assist you to find your own accommodation in the private sector.
It is very important to seek advice from a housing adviser, particularly in cases where it could be argued you were sent to prison for a crime that was not premeditated, or was not deliberate because you were not able to understand the consequences of your own actions.
This could be the case because of:
- having limited mental capacity
- mental illness
- an assessed substance abuse problem
Where will you be housed?
When you apply to North Norfolk District Council as homeless, the Housing Options team will check to see if you have a local connection with its area. You can establish a local connection, for example, by living, working, or having immediate family (usually a parent or adult brother or sister) in the area.
Time spent in prison in a specific area does not give you a local connection with the area where the prison is located. However, if you have no local connection with any area or if you are fleeing domestic violence, you can apply to any council in any area. The council you apply to has to help you.
There may be restrictions placed on where you can live. For example, if an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) says you can't go to a particular area, you may need to seek help from a different council.
High risk prisoners managed by a multi agency public protection arrangement (MAPPA) may be required to live in certain areas.
You may need to use emergency accommodation such as a hostel, night shelter or bed and breakfast accommodation if you have nowhere to go following your release. Hostels provide temporary accommodation. Some are direct access, which means you don't need a referral from an agency to use them.
Search the Homeless England directory to find hostels, emergency and longer term accommodation and day centres in your area. This information can be found at homeless.org.uk.
Finding private rented accommodation
You could try to find housing in the private rented sector. North Norfolk District Council’s Housing Options team will be able to advise you how to find out what housing is available locally. Also our Help in finding a privately rented property page offers help and advice in finding privately rented accommodation.
Apply for a council or housing association home
Help in finding housing from probation services
Offenders serving sentences of 12 months or more are released on licence and live in the community supervised by the probation service until the end of their sentence. If you are released on licence, your probation officer can help you find accommodation, as long as you have spent a continuous period of at least twelve months in custody.
Help with money before you are released from prison
All prisoners are given a discharge grant paid for by the prison when they leave. This is money to help with your costs until your benefits are sorted out.
If a prison housing adviser has found your accommodation for your first night, you may be given a higher discharge grant (about an extra £50), which is paid directly to the accommodation provider.
You could apply for help through the Norfolk Assistance Scheme to assist with paying for:
- essential belongings lost when you were away
- a fridge for your new home
- help with the costs of moving into accommodation
You may be able to prepare for your release when you are in prison by saving some of your prison wages. You could consider opening a credit union account when you are in prison. Ask at the prison for details.
Homelessness help when on bail or Home Detention Curfew
If you are a low risk adult prisoner and eligible for release on bail or home detention curfew, but don't have suitable accommodation to go to, you may be able to get help with supported accommodation through the bail accommodation and support scheme.