Tuesday, 24 November 2015
Are you housing an ex-offender?
In 1996, research undertaken by the Centre of Housing Policy at York University found "that ex-prisoners were more likely to re-offend if they did not find satisfactory accommodation on release". Supporting these findings, in 2002, the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU) produced a report entitled Reducing Re-offending by Ex-Prisoners which detailed that "stable accommodation reduced the risk of re-offending by around 20%". After these came three more corroborative reports sponsored by various charitable organisations and government bodies, all noted in the document entitled Housing ex-offenders from the House of Commons Library, which all say the same thing.
Six categories excluded
Now, the Homelessness (Priority Need for Accommodation) (England) Order 2002, extends to include six categories of people that were previously excluded from the priority ranking. In the case of ex-offenders, the wording defines people as being vulnerable if they have a) served a custodial sentence, b) been committed for contempt of court or any other kindred offence, or c) been remanded in custody. This means that ex-offenders can only be classed as vulnerable as a result of having been in custody or detention. The Local Authority is advised to take several factors into account when establishing whether a person is vulnerable as a result of their period spent in custody or detention. These factors are the length of time served, whether the person is under any type of supervision, how long it has been since the person was released and the person's support network/relationship with family and friends.
Local Authorities are also advised to consider whether or not the applicant has made themselves homeless intentionally, as the LA has no duty to provide housing for a person (household) that is homeless by design. In 2003, yet more reports were produced to demonstrate that LAs were struggling to meet the housing requirement created by the extension of the priority needs categories. Simultaneously, it was revealed that "the need for ex-offenders to 'prove' that they are vulnerable as a result institutionalisation might act as a barrier to them actually achieving priority need". When yet more studies were commissioned, evidence surfaced that showed ex-offenders were still having difficulty finding the housing that they desperately need. The new inquiry into homelessness 2004-2005 found that "not only do [ex-offenders] not gain access to the right services in sufficient quantities, but they are ruled intentionally homeless for committing crime in the first place".
Code of guidance
In the light of these frankly outrageous findings, which clearly demonstrate an indiscriminate persecution of ex-offenders at work within our (so called) Local Authorities, the (then) Government was quick to promise a revised Code of Guidance for 2005 (which eventually came in 2006).
More research followed, with research commissioned in 2009 by the Department of Work and Pensions, and yet another good practice guide was published as a result entitled Homelessness Prevention and Meeting Ex-Offenders' Needs, though still former prisoners are having a hard time finding housing. Throughout it all, though blanket bans which used to prevent all ex-offenders from applying to housing lists were abolished by the 2002 Act, the LAs have retained their right to refuse individuals "where they have exhibited past behaviour which, in the authority's view, is serious enough to make him or her unsuitable as a tenant." Sadly, the current Localism Bill 2010-2011, will not only give LAs the authority to continue discriminating as they used to, but effectively allow blanket bans to be re-introduced.
If you, or anyone in your household have unspent criminal convictions, you are likely to be no stranger to discrimination. Many insurance providers will hold unspent convictions against you and though outdated legislation currently gives them the right to do so, you do not have to accept it and go without home insurance.
At HomeProtect, we are different. We believe that everyone deserves fair access to the home insurance they require, so we are committed to delivering competitive quotes for insurance with convictions. We promise to always treat you fairly and with the respect you rightly deserve.