A NEW programme aimed at preventing homelessness and reoffending by newly-released prisoners and supporting their families during and after the prison term was launched today (June 4).
Shelter Scotland, along with Sacro and Inverness Badenoch and Strathspey Citizens Advice Bureau, officially launched SPAN Scotland (Supporting Prisoners Advice Network) at an event attended by the Housing and Welfare Minister, Margaret Burgess MSP, ex-offenders and their families at Perth Prison.
SPAN Scotland will provide housing support and advice to over 1,800 offenders from Grampian, Perth and Inverness prisons before and after release over the next three years.
Says spokesperson: “Each case of reoffending prevented by SPAN Scotland is set to reduce the public purse burden by more than £32,370 per prisoner per year , while the advice and support offered to prisoners’ families on their housing and money needs is also set to bring both financial and social benefit.
“Funded by £889,317 from the Big Lottery Fund, SPAN Scotland will provide advice, support and advocacy for successful re-settlement to avoid homelessness – a key factor in re-offending.”
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “Addressing the link between the lack of a stable, safe and affordable home and the increase in the likelihood of reoffending is known to be key to breaking the offending cycle.
“When in prison, people often lose their accommodation because of an inability to pay rent whilst serving their sentence or a family break-up. Many don’t have a job to go back to upon release making finding and maintaining a home very difficult. This can add to an already chaotic lifestyle and lead to re-offending.
“Housing can play a vital role in breaking the cycle of reoffending which has not only social, but economic benefits. We look forward to helping prisoners and their families to find and keep a home and avoid the tragedy of homelessness.”
Adds the spokesperson: “According to Shelter Scotland preventing homelessness amongst prisoners helps prevent reoffending. A recent study showed that ex-prisoners are significantly more likely to reoffend when they have problems with both accommodation and lack of employment. The reoffending rate within the first year after release of those with problems with housing and employment was 74 per cent compared to 43 per cent of those with no similar problems. ”
The Minister for Housing and Welfare, Margaret Burgess MSP, said:
“It is a key priority for this Government to ensure prevention activity continues to result in many more people avoiding the misery of homelessness. People are especially vulnerable on release from prison and it is essential that adequate housing advice is available to these individuals in order that homelessness can be prevented.
“The Shelter Scotland /Inverness CAB/SACRO project will provide vital advice so that prisoners who have accommodation are given necessary advice to help them retain it, or if they are homeless given advice about their legislative rights to accommodation.
“In December 2012, landmark legislation came into force in Scotland which has put us at the forefront in Europe in our approach to tackling homelessness and from June 1st all local authorities in Scotland were required to assess and provide housing support for certain homeless applicants.
“We know that the rate of repeat homelessness is much higher among people who have left prison than the general homelessness population and we remain committed to tackling this issue.”
Big Lottery Fund Scotland director, Jackie Killeen, said:
“We are delighted to be funding this project which will work not only with offenders, but also their families at a critical time of change and uncertainty.
“Specially trained advisors will work with them before and after they leave prison to address, not only housing issues, but will also be able to connect them to other kinds of specialist support if needed.
“Our mission at the Big Lottery Fund is to support those in greatest need and projects like this one can help to break the cycle of re-offending and enable former offenders and their families to build a new life.”
A shortage of social housing, problems with affordability and the perception of ex-offenders as risky or undesirable tenants are just some of the barriers which lead to many becoming homeless on their release. SPAN Scotland supports ex-offenders to overcome these challenges and to reintegrate back into society.
Alasdair Christie, general nanager of Inverness Badenoch and Strathspey CAB, said:
“The CAB is here to offer free, confidential and impartial advice to anyone who needs it, on any issue. We have always advised prisoners and their families on issues like housing, as well as other issues, but it’s great to see this work being formalised in partnership with these other agencies.
“This support not only helps those who have been released, but helps the community as well by reducing re-offending. It’s a common-sense investment that benefits everyone.”
Sacro’s national service support manager, Keith Hastie, said:
“Studies have regularly shown that stable accommodation is a critical factor in helping reduce the likelihood of reoffending. Through this project, 2,500 people (offenders and families of offenders) can benefit directly and Sacro will be working with over 200 beneficiaries receiving post-release support in the community.
“Years of experience and consultation have informed this project. Sacro, Inverness CAB and Shelter Scotland have worked closely together on developing it, with each organisation advising on specialist areas of knowledge and senior staff liaising on the development and details of the model”.
The number of offenders held in Scottish prisons continues to rise. During 2011-12, the average daily population rose to 8,178, an increase on 7,853 the previous year. 
Advice and support is available of offenders and their families by contacting SPAN Scotland on 0344 515 2535 or SPAN@shelter.org.uk
Notes to Editors:
1. The annual cost per prisoner place was £32,371 for 2011-12 according to the Scottish Prison Service Annual Report 2011/12 (page 11) http://www.sps.gov.uk/Publications/Publication-4158.aspx
2. Prisoners who have problems with both employment and accommodation on release from prison have a reoffending rate of 74 per cent during the year after custody, compared to 43 per cent for those with no problems. Ministry of Justice (2008) Factors linked to reoffending: a one-year report http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/Portals/0/Documents/FactfileJune2012.pdf
3. Please see the Scottish Prison Service Annual Report 2011/12 http://www.sps.gov.uk/Publications/Publication-4158.aspx
4. For further information about SPAN Scotland please visit http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/about_us/how_we_make_a_difference/specialist_services_in_scotland/prison_advice_project
5. Shelter Scotland helps over half a million people a year struggling with bad housing or homelessness – and we campaign to prevent it in the first place. We’re here so no-one has to fight bad housing or homelessness on their own. For advice and support visit www.shelterscotland.org or call 0808 800 4444.
6. Sacro is a national community justice voluntary organisation working across Scotland to make communities safer by reducing conflict and offending http://www.sacro.org.uk/ Press enquiries – Alan Mairs, Communications Officer, Sacro, 0131 624 7259 /
7. Inverness Badenoch & Strathspey Citizens Advice Bureau offers free, confidential information and advice to help people with their money, legal, consumer and other problems www.cas.org.uk
8. Spokespeople are available for interview – call the media office on 0844 515 2442. An ISDN line is available for broadcast interviews.
9. Follow Shelter Scotland on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/shelterscotland Twitter – http://twitter.com/shelterscotland
Shelter Scotland believes everyone should have a home. We help people find and keep a home. We campaign for decent housing for all.
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Contact: Shelter Scotland