Research explores the problem of housing young custody leavers

Harriet Pierpoint, associate professor Criminology

Dr Harriet Pierpoint, co-author of the new report

A new report into tackling the cycle of homelessness and reoffending in young people has been published today by the Welsh Government.

The report, co-authored by Dr Harriet Pierpoint, associate professor of Criminology, was commissioned to evaluate the National Pathway for Homelessness Services to Children and Young People in the Secure Estate – referred to as ‘the Pathway’ (Welsh Government, 2015).

The Pathway represents a commitment by Welsh Government to ensure that housing need is addressed early and in a planned fashion, with the aim of reducing homelessness upon release.

The issue

Many homeless young people offend and are homeless upon entry into the criminal justice system, and many young people in custody are homeless on release (Howard League for Penal Reform, 2009; Maguire and Nolan, 2007).  

What the report looks at

The report considers how local authorities, Youth Offending Teams, secure establishments and the third sector understand and implement the processes set out in the Pathway, and the challenges they face.

It also looks at the experiences of the young people who come into contact with the Pathway.

Key findings include:

  • Generally, the Pathway is being implemented as envisaged and the main impact has been the development of closer relationships between partners. However, there are some challenges and areas for improvement

  • The greatest gap in understanding appears to be with which agency the duty lies and the roles of children’s services and local authority housing departments

  • Some young people did not feel that they were involved with or kept informed of accommodation planning. None reported having been involved with or seeing any paperwork completed about their accommodation situation, nor having visited accommodation pre-release. A small number did not know where they were going to be accommodated upon release

  • Young people who are placed in secure establishments far from their hometowns or young people who are deemed to be ‘high risk’ due to the nature of their conviction or complexity of their needs are more disadvantaged than others with regard to ensuring appropriate accommodation and support upon release

  • There is a need for more supported accommodation, specifically accommodation that provides wrap-around, specialist support for young people with complex needs

The report makes a number of recommendations, including increased awareness of Pathway, increased availability of ‘appropriate’ supported accommodation and a need to involve and inform young people of destination accommodation.

About Dr Harriet Pierpoint

Dr Pierpoint, associate professor of Criminology at USW, is interested in all aspects of vulnerability and fairness in the criminal justice system.

Her research has covered different groups of vulnerable people including young people, people with speech, language and communication issues and people recently released from prison struggling with homelessness, mental health problems, unemployment, substance misuse etc.

She is an experienced project manager of large-scale research projects for government departments, and often works with research consultancies and the third sector.  

She has conducted research for the Youth Justice Board, Home Office, Ministry of Justice, National Offender Management Service Cymru, St Giles Trust Cymru and now Welsh Government. 

Read the report here