`Small army´ leaving prison without job or…

A “small army of people” are leaving prison without any form of employment or accommodation, a former minister has warned.

The latest Government figures reveal that almost a third of adult prisoners released last year were sent to “unsettled or unknown” accommodation and just over a quarter were found to be entering into employment.

Longstanding Labour MP Frank Field told the Press Association that many faced the desperate choice of destitution or returning to petty crime.

Mr Field, who chairs the Work and Pensions Committee, said: “Leaving prison, for some people, opens up a new supply route into destitution, or back into the old habit of re-offending.

“A small army of people are now leaving prison without an income or accommodation – Feeding Birkenhead has found that even food bank vouchers are sometimes out of reach – so of course the two clearest options that beckon are either a life on the streets or petty crime.”

He added: “Although the Government seems intent on addressing this social evil, it will need to act pretty fast to fix these large holes in the safety net.”

Justice Minister Lucy Frazer, responding to a parliamentary question from Mr Field, said that the MoJ were working across Government on the issue.

She said: “We believe that everyone leaving custody should have a safe and suitable home to go to on release, having somewhere to live gives people a stable platform from which to access health services, hold down a job and reduces the likelihood of them re-offending.

“We also recognise the impact that employment on release has on the likelihood of a person re-offending, so we remain committed to offering better support to ex-offenders in all areas, including employment and accommodation.”

Ms Frazer went on to add that the Government was planning a new scheme to get prisoners into employment upon release.

The scheme, she said, would support governors to “broker relationships between prisons and employers”.

She added: “We are also working with DWP to clarify the roles and responsibilities of those bodies involved in offender rehabilitation.

“We are working with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to deliver a joint strategy to improve access to housing for those being released from prison.”

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