- Supported housing can be provided in a hostel, or ordinary flats or houses, and it can be short or long term accommodation
- Support is aimed at helping people to learn the skills needed for living in their own place eventually as well as managing their stay
- Staff may be there all the time or only part of the time, so it’s important to look for a scheme that has the type of staff support that you want
- Most councils have a directory of supported housing on their website but may also have a booklet with all this information
- In some places, all applications to get into supported housing have to go through the Council, and have more chance of success if someone like a Probation Officer supports the application
- If it is necessary to have an interview before a place can be offered, these can take place in prison, before release, and sometimes can be done by phone or by video link
- Supported housing schemes mostly have rules about who they will house and who they will not usually house
- Charges for supported housing can usually be covered by Housing Benefit, but there is almost always an extra charge for food and other things that HB does not cover.
- The BASS scheme offers accommodation for people leaving prison as a way of leaving earlier than they might otherwise
In supported housing, you are offered accommodation and support, and must live in specific accommodation to receive support. The support is usually offered by the organisation managing the accommodation, but sometimes by a different organisation. The accommodation can be a room in a shared house or hostel with staff on site, a self-contained bedsitter or flat in a large building with staff on site, or it can be dispersed – an ordinary individual flat or house which has visiting staff. Staff may work office hours only, or there may be staff on duty 24 hours a day, or in the office during the day and sleeping on site at night.
Most supported accommodation is short term, either for short periods such as up to 3 months, or, as in most cases, for up to 2 years. It can also be permanent, but this is most likely in schemes for people with severe mental health problems, learning disabilities, or particular long term health problems. It is usually offered to single people only, but there are some schemes which offer accommodation to someone who needs support along with their family.
Supported housing often provides people with somewhere to live because they were homeless, but it can also be specialist accommodation for people who need help and possibly training to try to make sure they don’t become homeless in the future.
What sort of support is offered?
Housing support aims to help people to build ordinary living skills, while they are in the supported accommodation, and for the future, when people move on to independent accommodation. It could be about practical things – such as paying the rent, claiming benefits, or learning to cook or clean – or it can mean help to cope emotionally, with living with other people, or learning to manage a mental health problem or a drug or alcohol problem. The main purpose is to make sure that people learn how to hold down a tenancy of their own in the future.
Supported housing staff also help residents to learn how to use ordinary services like health services, leisure centres and libraries, and help people to make a start on getting a job, or going to college.
For people who have been through the criminal justice systems, support also means offering help to not re-offend, or to attend appointments with a Probation officer or Drug Intervention Programme worker.
Finding supported housing for people with a criminal record
Supported housing is mostly provided by not-for-profit (“voluntary”) organisations. Some supported housing is owned by the Council or a Housing Association, but often it is managed by a voluntary organisation.
Directories of supported housing can be found on almost all local Council websites, and on the following sites or numbers:
- Nacro’s Resettlement Finder
- Homeless UK Accommodation Search
- Homeless London’s website
- Shelter’s helpline: 0808 800 4444
- Shelter Advice Services Directory (for advice and help to find accommodation)
There may also be a list in a leaflet or booklet given out by the Housing Options or homeless service run by the local council.
Accommodation for people on bail, Home Detention Curfew or Intensive Alternative to Custody order
The Bail Accommodation and Support Scheme (BASS) offers supported housing for people who are on bail or Home Detention Curfew (HDC) but either do not have a suitable address, or need some extra support. You must have been bailed by the courts or released from prison, initially on an electronic tag, but this scheme is not used for anyone with criminal offences of a sexual nature, or for someone who comes with a high or very high risk of harm, to themselves or others. The accommodation is provided only while the person is on bail, HDC, or IAC.
The accommodation is usually provided in a shared house, with 2 or 3 people in the house, each with their own bedroom and shared communal space (kitchen, living room, and shared bathroom). Some accommodation is for 1 person only, which allows people to be reunited with their children for short periods of time. Living there with a partner is not allowed, though.
The houses and flats are furnished, with bedding, and there is a basic food and toiletries pack provided for the first day. There is also normally a pre-paid mobile phone.
How long you stay depends on what sort of order you are on, and what stage you move into this accommodation. It usually lasts till the trial date for bail, with a 7 day leeway if you are found not guilty. For someone on HDC, it lasts till the end of the order, again with 7 days to find somewhere else to live. In either case, at the end of the stay, Stonham staff will work hard to help to find other accommodation.
If people live in their own accommodation but need support, regular support visits can be arranged whilst people are on bail, HDC, or IAS.
To get a place in the BASS scheme, referrals are usually made by the Offender Management Unit or Through the Gate resettlement team in prisons, Probation Officer in courts or Offender Manger in the community if someone is already on a tag but they cannot stay any longer where they have been living. For more information, visit https://www.nacro.org.uk/services/bass/nacro-bass or call 0300 555 0264 or 07423 434032.
Applying for supported housing
There are 4 main ways of getting a place in supported housing:
- Applying over the phone
- Applying using an application form
- Someone else making a referral – they will usually need you to fill in an application, and will add their comments to that form, saying why you need a place in supported housing. The referral can be made by a Probation officer or DIP worker, social worker, an advice or support worker, or someone at the homeless service, but it can usually be made by any agency that is helping you to find the right place to stay.
- Applying through a “gateway” run by the local Council – Gateways are systems where all applications for supported housing go through one team, usually at the Council. This means that only one application form has to be filled in, and the Gateway system organises a referral to only those schemes that would fit the needs of the person needing a space. Where there is a Gateway system, it is not usually possible to apply directly to the supported housing organisation instead of or as well as going through the Gateway. Some Gateways give priority to applicants who are supported by particular organisations, including the homeless team, Probation, Youth Offending Teams, and the team that is responsible for buying in substance misuse services.
Most supported housing schemes ask for an interview, either when you apply or when there is going to be a vacancy. You will usually need to provide information about where you have stayed before, and which organisations you are regularly in touch with, such as Probation or a drug or alcohol treatment service. Supported housing staff will need to know what level of risk there might be in offering you a room, and what help and support you will need to be able to stay there successfully.
For people in prison, it is quite possible to apply for supported housing before release. This can mean that a supported housing provider accepts the referral and agrees to house you when you are released, if there is a space at that point.
Why might you not get a place in supported housing?
The main reasons for not being able to get into a particular supported housing scheme are:
- There are no spaces free at the moment
- You do not fit the criteria for the scheme. For example:
– The scheme is intended for people aged 16-25, and this person is 28.
– The person has a mental health problem, and needs a lot of support, but this scheme offers only low level support, with staff only there during the day
- You have stayed there before and left under a cloud
The most common problems which might stop people going back to a place where they had stayed before are that the person did not pay the rent or service charge there in the past, or that their behaviour meant that they broke the house rules.
Almost all supported housing caters for people who have a criminal record, but some may not offer to house someone who has committed particular crimes. Other reasons for not allowing someone with a criminal record to go into supported housing are linked to a concern about risk for other residents, visitors, neighbours or staff. This could be because:
- They are known to be violent or to have been violent in the past
- They have a conviction for setting fire to a building or other structure
- They are known to have sold drugs
- They have taken drugs or used alcohol in a way that has been very risky for other residents
- They have allowed visitors in who have made the lives of other residents more difficult or risky
Another common barrier is that there may need to be a face-to-face interview with you, but the staff in the supported housing scheme do not have time yet to go to the prison to do the interview. In this case, it is worth trying to persuade them to do an interview over the phone or using a video link. There should be equipment for video links in all prisons. Another option is for the housing advice service in the prison to do the interview and collect detailed information from you, to help the supported housing service make a decision before release about whether they can house you.
Being accepted for supported housing does not mean that a space will always be available when the person is released from prison. Some supported housing schemes may keep a bed for a few days when someone is about to be released. In some areas, the council may pay for the bed to be kept for a person coming out of prison for a few days.
Paying for supported housing
Supported housing charges can mostly be met by Housing Benefit, but there is almost always part of the charge, known as a service charge, that is not covered by benefits. This pays for personal items, such as food, and for the communal areas. Service charges vary hugely from place to place.
For people who are working, or who want to get a job, or anyone else who cannot claim housing benefit, supported housing costs can be very hard to pay for. They are often much higher than the rent for an ordinary flat because the costs cover staffing, as well as furniture, heating and bedding etc. Some supported housing organisations have special arrangements to help people who are working to pay the costs above any housing benefit that can be claimed.