Bishop Rachel: women prison-leavers must be supported into safe housing

Published: March 23, 2021

Bishop Rachel in House of LordsCampaigners call on Parliamentarians to stop Government releasing up to 6 out of 10 women from prison to homelessness

Today, campaigners, including women with lived experience of the issue, will virtually meet MPs and Peers to call for action to stop up to 6 in 10 women released from prison being condemned to homelessness. Parliamentarians from across the political divide will discuss the devastating impact of being released from prison to no fixed abode and call on the Government to take urgent action to end this practise.

Thousands of women leave prison each year with just a £46 discharge grant and a plastic bag of belongings. This puts vulnerable women, many of whom have experienced domestic abuse and trauma, at risk and prevents them from securing regular employment, resuming care of children and achieving rehabilitation. 65 percent of prison leavers released to no fixed abode go on to reoffend.

The Government recently announced £70 million to support prison leavers, including a new temporary accommodation service, but the Safe Homes for Women Leaving Prison initiative says this will not be enough to end the crisis. The initiative is calling for specific measures that support the particular and complex needs of vulnerable women prison leavers and help them to find the permanent safe and secure accommodation they need to rebuild their lives.

MPs and Peers will show their support for these arguments tomorrow at an online event, hosted by Bishop Rachel, who is the Anglican Bishop for Prisons in England and Wales. Parliamentarians will hear from Sharon Pickup, who successfully secured safe and supported accommodation after her release from prison and now works at the Wise Group with prison leavers, many of whom were discharged into homelessness. Rebecca Noble from Anawim, Birmingham’s Centre for Women, which supports vulnerable women leaving prison by providing them with secure accommodation and through the gate support as part of its services, will also address MPs and Peers.

Bishop Rachel said: “The Government is failing to address the staggering numbers of women leaving prison to homelessness. This places thousands of women back into at-risk environments, directly contributing to an avoidable cycle of reoffending. The Government needs to be working effectively across departments, and with local authorities and partner organisations to ensure that every vulnerable woman with complex needs is supported into safe and secure permanent housing so they can rebuild their lives – without it, we are simply setting them up to fail.”

John Plummer, Coordinator of London Prisons Mission and Representative of the Safe Homes for Women Leaving Prison initiative, said: “It is unacceptable that in 2021, thousands of women are being released from prison directly into homelessness. The Government must take urgent action to end this crisis and the new accommodation service for prison leavers is just the beginning. We must provide for the specific and complex needs of vulnerable women leaving prison.

“The Safe Homes for Women Leaving Prison initiative and our supporters are calling for a cross-government approach to ensure no woman is released from prison to homelessness. We urge the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to listen to these calls and demonstrate, within their initiatives, an understanding of the very different experiences, circumstances and needs of women in the criminal justice system, which are fundamentally different from those of men.”

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