Housing Advice - People with an offending history
If you are leaving custody and cannot return to your family or another safe address, you, your offender manager or other support worker should contact the council as early as possible if you are likely to be homeless on your release. The council will work with your offender manager and support services to agree and deliver reasonable steps to try to prevent you from becoming homeless.
If these measures are unsuccessful and you leave custody without a home to go to or you become homeless or threatened with homelessness at a later date, the council has a duty to provide advice and assistance to help you get accommodation.
You will be invited to an appointment with a housing options officer who will assess your housing and support needs and agree a personal housing plan with you. This is a plan of the steps you will be expected to take to remain in your current home if you have one, or find somewhere to live. It will also set out how the council will support you and what other agencies you should engage with to help you find and sustain a home.
There are a number of ways that we may help, such as referring you to hostel accommodation or lending you the deposit for a home in the private rented sector. You will be advised on making an application to the Housing Register if you have not already done so.
We will also assess whether you have a priority need under the terms of the Housing Act 1996. Some households such as those that include dependent children or a pregnant woman will automatically be in priority need. If this is not the case we will look at whether you are in priority need due to being vulnerable. In doing so, we will take account of all relevant factors that might contribute to you being significantly more vulnerable than an ordinary person would be if made homeless. We will take into consideration:
- the impact that being in custody has had on you and the views of criminal justice agency staff that have worked with you;
- any mental or physical health problems, drug and alcohol issues;
- the impact of any time you have spent in care or the armed forces;
- other factors that might limit your ability to find and sustain accommodation;
- any support you are getting from either formal or informal sources.
Additionally, we will investigate whether you have a local connection. To have a connection to East Herts you must:
- have lived in the district for six out of the last 12 months or three out of the last five years, by choice; or
- work in the district; or
- have a close family member that lives in the district and has done do for at least five years; or
- have another special reason for needing to live in East Herts
If you become homeless
If you are in priority need, but do not have a local connection we will refer you to a local authority to which you do have a connection.
If you are not in priority need, the council will not have a duty to provide you with temporary accommodation. In these circumstances, we will continue to work with you for up to 56 days to help you to find somewhere to live.
If we decide that you are in priority need and have a local connection, you will be provided with temporary accommodation for up to 56 days. During this time we will continue to work with you to find a more permanent home. We will also look at the circumstances that caused you to become homeless and make a decision on whether you are intentionally homeless.
You may be intentionally homeless if:
- at the time of committing your offence, it could have been reasonably expected that losing your accommodation was a likely consequences; an
- your accommodation would have continued to be available to you had you not committed the offence(s).
If you are in priority need and not intentionally homeless, the council will continue to provide you with temporary accommodation until we are able to offer you more permanent accommodation either in the private rented sector or in social housing.
Help from the Probation Service
You might be given accommodation in a probation hostel if you are released on licence, for example if:
- your sentence is for 12 months or more
- you are considered a high risk and have multi-agency involvement (MAPPA) involved in your case
If your licence agreement has restrictions on where you can live, the probation service should arrange your probation hostel in time for your release.
People in custody
If you are remanded in custody or serving a prison sentence, the Prison Service and probation providers should carry out an assessment of your resettlement needs, including the need for accommodation, at the start of your period in custody. You should tell them about any concerns you have about your housing situation. Your resettlement plan should be reviewed throughout you sentence to enable appropriate support to be arranged to meet your needs on release.
While in prison you may be able to get help and advice with housing and benefits from people based in prisons, such as:
- shelter specialist advisors;
- peer advisers - prisoners who have been trained to advise and support other prisoners;
- prison resettlement workers or housing advisers;
- probation officers or offender supervisors;
- your personal officer - a prison officer who is allocated to help you;
- faith-based organisations.
The council will assist the Prison Service, probation providers and other prison based support services in providing advice and assistance to prisoners and in taking action to ensure they can sustain or surrender their accommodation while in custody.
Paying your rent while in custody
If you go into prison you may be able to continue getting Housing Benefit or make a claim for the first time. If you are already claiming Housing Benefit you must tell the council straight away if you are remanded in custody, sentenced or released and let us know of any changes in circumstances.
Housing Benefit will only be paid in certain circumstances and the length of time it will be paid for will depend on whether you are on remand or serving a sentence.
You can't claim Housing Benefit if:
- you are likely to be on remand for more than 52 weeks
- you are likely to be in prison for more than 13 weeks (including any time on remand)
- you are not intending to return home on release
- you are claiming as a couple and you have split up
- the property is going to be rented out
If you are remanded in custody you can get Housing Benefit on your normal home for up to 52 weeks. A sentenced prisoner can get Housing Benefit for up to 13 weeks. If you have already spent 13 weeks or more on remand, you will not receive any more Housing Benefit when you are sentenced.
If Housing Benefit does not cover all of your rent you will fall into arrears unless you can arrange to pay the shortfall from another source.
On bail or home detention curfew
If you are eligible for release on bail or home detention curfew but you do not have suitable accommodation, you may be able to get help with supported accommodation through the bail accommodation and support scheme. Referrals are usually made by a probation officer in the court, or in the prison, or an offender manager for someone already on a tag who can no longer stay where they have been living. For more information, visit Nacro BASS or call 0300 555 0264.
If you are on bail on condition that you live somewhere other than your normal home until the court hearing, such as a bail hostel, you may be entitled to Housing Benefit for up to 52 weeks.
Universal credit (UC)
If you were getting UC to help pay your rent or a mortgage before you went into prison, you can continue to get UC housing costs payments for up to 6 months. This applies if you are on remand, on bail or sentenced. Universal Credit will not be paid if you receive a custodial sentence and are expected to be in prison (including time on remand) for more than 6 months.
If you had rent arrears when you went into custody or are unable to cover all your rent while you are in custody, you may have to consider giving up your tenancy. You should get advice from the prison service, probation provider or a specialist support worker before giving up your tenancy.
Paying your mortgage while in custody
Support for Mortgage Interest
Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) is paid as a loan, which you'll need to repay with interest when you sell or transfer ownership of your home. It can be used to help towards interest payments on:
- your mortgage
- loans you've taken out for certain repairs and improvements to your home
You can't get SMI if you're serving a prison sentence but your partner might be able to claim instead. Your partner's name may not have to be on the mortgage to be able to claim.
Claiming SMI while on remand
If you are single and on remand and meet the eligibility conditions, you may be able to continue getting SMI.
You can't claim SMI or Income Support if you're part of a couple and on remand, but your partner can claim benefit and housing costs. You can't make a new claim if you're on remand.
How SMI is paid
SMI can only be paid through Pension Credit or Income Support if you're on remand. You'll need to apply for one of these benefits if you've been getting it paid through Income-based Job Seeker's Allowance or Employment and Support allowance.
You'll only be able to get the housing costs part of Pension Credit or Income Support. You won't get help for the first 39 weeks if you apply for help with interest payments through Income Support.
Applying to the Housing Register
If you are on the housing register when you go into custody you should inform the council of your change in circumstances.
You can apply to join the housing register while in custody, but you will not be considered for an allocation of housing until your release. When you are released you should inform the council of your change of circumstances.
For further support relating to this, please see;
- Shelter - Tel: 0808 800 4444
- NACRO - Tel: 0300 123 1999
- Unlock - Tel: 01634 247350 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information and help, please see our independent advice page