Housing advice for people leaving prison

Priority need for prisoners and ex-offenders

By law, Ealing Council must take certain factors into account when determining whether you are vulnerable and therefore in priority need. In the case of prisoners and ex-offenders, this includes things like institutionalisation after a long spell in prison and the risk of being drawn back into crime.

If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness, we will assess whether your other circumstances make you vulnerable. 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 all your circumstances, including, for example:

  • 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 a 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 Ealing Council has to treat you as being vulnerable and in priority need for accommodation and in many cases the council will not be obliged to do so.

Ealing Council will need to assess the evidence and be satisfied that you will find it difficult to seek out and maintain accommodation for yourself compared to other people who are rendered homeless.

Prisoners and ex-offenders who have a home and want to keep it

For prisoners who have a home when they go into prison, their best option is to retain that accommodation. Both social and private rented accommodation are very hard to obtain, and in many cases the council will not have a legal duty to provide accommodation.

We therefore strongly advise that prisoners with a home, and those advising or working with them, do their best to keep that home if they possibly can.

It is important that you let your landlord know the situation and take steps to make sure that your rent is covered while you are detained. If you are a council tenant, you must inform your housing officer about your circumstances.

It is also important that you deal with your benefits and keep the Benefits Agency informed of your circumstances.

If you are on bail or on remand, you could continue to receive housing benefit for up to a year. If you have been sentenced, you could still receive housing benefit to cover a short sentence. Alternatively, you could make sure a partner who lives there makes the right claim.

Please refer to this advice from the National Homelessness Advice Service (NHAS) if you are an existing owner occupier or tenant and you want to keep your accommodation whilst in prison:

Prisoners and ex-offenders treated as intentionally homeless

Ealing Council may decide that because you were evicted from where you lived before going to prison because of criminal or antisocial behaviour, or because of rent arrears resulting from your time in prison, that you are intentionally homeless.

If we decide that you are intentionally homeless, we 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 in order to assist you to find your own housing in the private sector.

We 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. We could also decide that you are intentionally homeless if you gave up your tenancy because your entitlement to housing benefit ended during a period in prison.

It is very important that you tell us about your background as there are circumstances where you may have lost your accommodation but would not be found intentionally homeless, for instance if 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
  • having a mental illness
  • frailty
  • having an assessed substance abuse problem.

Please see the following National Homelessness Advice Service documents for further information: