Embracing New Technology and Social Media to Prevent Homelessness: How COVID-19 is impacting on support workers in the criminal justice system

In this post, Stan Burridge, Director of Expert Focus (a user-led consultancy), reports on how COVID-19 is impacting on workers who support people leaving prison to find accommodation and resettle in the community. He speaks to two workers from the Cumbria Offender Service run by Humankind, a medium-sized voluntary sector organisation based in the north of England. (1,388 words)

Thinking about your job before the lockdown, what is your normal role like?

There are a number of different roles I play supporting offenders who have either been released after serving a prison sentence or as part of a community-based sentence involving probation. All of my work fits into the wider picture of helping them to find a stable platform (securing accommodation and claiming benefits is part of that process) so they can engage with other services as part of their sentencing commitments but also as a way of moving forward and hopefully away from committing crime.

What are the difficulties in finding accommodation for people leaving prison, especially as housing is at a premium?

There is a real difficulty in getting people housed and in an ideal world everyone who was released from prison would have somewhere to go, but that is not the case. Often when accommodation is found it is in areas where there is a lot of crime and drug use, so it seems as though we are often perpetuating people’s problems. Options to place people in less deprived areas are limited and the harsh reality is if I couldn’t get someone housed in those sorts of areas, I probably wouldn’t be able to get them housed anywhere, so they would be homeless. Continue reading

Looked after children and offending: reducing risk and promoting resilience

In this guest post, Gareth Crossman, Executive Director of Policy, Communications and Fundraising at TACT, a fostering and adoption charity, highlights research done with the University of East Anglia on the topic of looked after children and offending. (371 words)

In 2010, TACT and the University of East Anglia’s Centre for Research on the Child and Family were awarded a research grant by the Big Lottery Fund. This funded a major project examining the relationship between children in care and the criminal justice system. One hundred young people, along with local authorities across England and Wales, took part in a series of detailed interviews and surveys. The aim was to investigate the factors that caused young people in care to be at risk of entry into the criminal justice system. And, crucially, what were the factors that could promote resilience and help keep them away from criminalisation.

Young people in care are often stereotyped as likely to become criminals. There is no doubt that statistics about prison populations show disproportionate numbers of people who have experienced being in care. However, nine out of ten young people who go into care will never come into contact with the police. The research bore out what TACT’s own experience told us; that when the care system works well it can prove hugely effective in keeping young people out of the criminal justice system. However, negative experiences can lead to greatly enhanced prospects of criminalisation. Continue reading