Carl Sargeant, Minister for Housing and Regeneration
This autumn, I launched a public consultation to further inform the development of new homelessness legislation I am bringing forward in my Housing Bill. It set out my proposal to amend the priority need status of former prisoners in relation to the homelessness duties of local authorities. Today, I am publishing the outcome of the consultation.
I am mindful that the subject of former prisoners having priority need status for housing has long been a controversial one. The needs of former prisoners are recognised but the current arrangements are widely perceived as being unfair in that they are given priority over many other vulnerable people irrespective of their personal circumstances.
I am grateful to all those who responded to the consultation. We received fifty-five responses from organisations and individuals inside and outside the field of housing.
A wide range of comments were made, and the substantial majority were in favour of the proposal. Respondents supported the refocusing of duties and priorities on working with all prisoners at risk to help prevent them becoming homeless, whilst retaining a duty to rehouse them where they were clearly vulnerable due to their imprisonment. The legislation will continue to provide priority need status to anyone, including a prisoner, who is vulnerable due to special circumstances, such as due to mental illness.
Several respondents expressed concerns about some aspects of the proposal, particularly the potential impact on the successful resettlement of vulnerable prisoners and the impact on reoffending. The broader provisions on homelessness will provide much improved help for prisoners before release to find them suitable accommodation.
I have decided to include the proposal on the face of the Bill. We will support the successful introduction of this change through joint working with criminal justice agencies, local authorities and the third sector.
I would like to emphasise that the needs of vulnerable former prisoners will continue to be met through the legislation, within the context of a more proactive approach to prevention.