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Young people leaving prison to be offered package of support aimed at preventing homelessness and reoffending

Last Updated: 13/04/2022

Homelessness charity, Llamau, will lead an innovative new project supporting young people in Wales who are at risk of homelessness, issues with resettling into the community and reoffending after leaving prison. The new project will launch in line with evidence that highlights how being inappropriately accommodated and supported following prison increases the chances of a young person disengaging with support services and increases the likelihood of reoffending.

The project, which has been funded by the Ministry of Justice, will run as a partnership between Llamau, South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, Gwent Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Safer Wales and HMPPS, and will target young people 18-25 in Cardiff and Newport.

Operational Director and Project Lead for Llamau, Johanna Robinson said:

“It’s not uncommon for us to see young people leaving prison feeling completely lost and without the right support and accommodation in place that will allow them to move forward and find their place within their community. Working with our partners, young people will be offered appropriate accommodation, Family Mediation and a suite of psychologically-informed support.”

Christopher* left prison only a few weeks ago after serving a two month sentence. He’s 21 and currently living in a B&B his family helped him find on leaving prison.

“It was nerve wracking coming out of prison, I didn’t know what to expect and my mental health was affected. I had no help, no money and nowhere to live. My mum found me a space at a B&B after approaching homelessness support services herself. The B&B doesn’t have cooking facilities or serve any food and I’m not allowed to have family visit me because of Covid.”

A unique aspect to this new three-pronged approach to supporting young people leaving prison is that accommodation is not conditional upon engagement with the support available, meaning a young person will not be at risk of homelessness if they do not feel ready to engage with the help available to them.

“Having a home is a human right and should never be seen as conditional upon engagement with support. We will work with each young person to identify opportunities to provide support and create a targeted support plan that taps into their individual circumstances and needs; with a view to helping them rebuild family relationships and begin to build essential life skills so they can move on in life.”

Due to his bail conditions, Christopher has not been able to continue engaging with the education opportunities he started whilst serving his sentence. Working with key services including probation, substance misuse services and education, training and employment providers, the project will focus on building a positive pathway for a young person to engage with when they leave prison. The impact of which will be better outcomes for them as individuals but also on the wider communities of Wales.

Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, Alun Michael, said:

“It is vital to do all we can to support young people with prompt, positive action to intervene immediately as when they leave prison, because that is the best way to prevent reoffending by giving them the opportunity to turn their lives around.

“Young people who offend are often victims themselves, with experiences that lead them into a pattern of offending that will be perpetuated throughout their lives if we fail to break the cycle of harm. This new collaborative project will focus on issues such as family breakdowns and the lack of appropriate accommodation and support, giving the best chance of achieving positive outcomes for these young people with benefits for the wides community.”

Positive resettlement into the community can be impacted greatly by family conflict, meaning a young person can leave prison without any support or connection with key members of their family. Working closely with HMPPS, expert Family Mediation Workers will provide targeted support where conflict has been identified before a young person is released from prison.

Quote from Her Majesty's Prison & Probation Service:

“Addressing conflict amongst families before a young person leaves prison could make an incredible difference to the young person’s choices and ultimately their future. Not only does it increase the chances of a young person going to live in appropriate accommodation and settling back into their community comfortably, it also means they have a support network around them that may not have been there before. The chances of them reoffending are reduced because they have people to turn to when they need them but also because they now have positive relationships that mean something to them.”

To minimise the risk of reoffending, experts in their field, Safer Wales, will establish a brand-new hub of support based in Cardiff for young people to access once they have left prison.

Engagement and Participation Workers will provide support through 1-1 and group sessions, delivering activities and educational opportunities that focus on building a young person’s skills base, resilience, ability to communicate and help them to navigate the world around them; allowing them to move onto wider, more positive pathways in the future.

Quote from Safer Wales:

“Safer Wales have been working to protect, support and empower vulnerable people who are often invisible to the rest of society for 20 years. Through this new service we’ll be able to support young people who struggle with additional barriers to moving on with life after prison, such as learning disabilities and adverse childhood experiences.

“If we want to see real change for young people leaving the prison service they need to be equipped with confidence and the skills needed to make informed decisions around their next steps in life.”

The impact of this project could ripple across a variety of statutory funded services that fall outside of the criminal justice system and connected services in Wales. All partners are keen to see tangible results that showcase the importance of partnership working on this scale and how using a holistic, person-centric approach can make a difference to the lives of young people leaving prison.

Graphic of Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael - lifted quote from story

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