No Fixed Abode: The housing struggle for young people leaving custody in England

The last 10 years have seen a welcome decrease in the numbers of young people entering the youth justice system and those being held in youth custody in England. However, despite significant investment, resettlement remains an intractable problem and reoffending rates are shockingly high, at 74 per cent. Research shows that having suitable accommodation arrangements in place significantly reduces the risk of reoffending. The previous government’s Social Exclusion Unit (SEU) reported that stable accommodation can reduce offending by as much as 20 per cent. Barnardo’s experience of providing floating support and supported accommodation for homeless young people, including those leaving custody, has convinced us that having the right level of support at the right time is crucial to ensuring adherence to the terms of a community licence, engaging with education and training, and accessing vital support services. Accommodation was one of the top five issues of concern for young people using Barnardo’s advocacy service inside the secure estate in 2009-10, so this research set out to examine the realities of accommodation and support for young people leaving custody and whether adaptations to statutory guidance in recent years have had any impact. We also calculated the savings that can be made if a young person is well supported on their release from custody. The report documents the journeys of five young people – Liam, Daniel, Amy, Chris and Robbie as they prepare for release and move into the community. Their stories, backed up by research interviews with professionals from the community and the secure estate, demonstrate how gaps in provision during the crucial transition from custody to the community can significantly hamper a young person’s ability to get their life back on track. This results in a costly cycle of unsuitable accommodation and off ending that could have been averted.

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