Blaenau Gwent to discuss ex-prisoners housing
5:30pm Tuesday 15th October 2013 in Gwent news
BLAENAU Gwent council is to discuss changing how former prisoners are allocated accommodation in the county borough tomorrow.
A meeting of the Executive this morning will discuss Blaenau Gwent’s response to a Welsh Government proposed amendment to the Housing Bill on how to accommodate former prisoners. The amendment will assess how vulnerable the prisoner is rather than granting them automatic priority need.
Currently, provided that they have a connection with the area, prison leavers who are homeless since leaving custody are accorded “priority need” status within the homelessness system, irrespective of any vulnerability. The hope was this approach would help to reduce rates of reoffending.
But now Carl Sargeant, minister for housing and regeneration, has asked local authorities their views on making an amendment to the current priority need status.
He said: “I am concerned at the burden on local authorities and communities that arises from the priority need status that is given to former prisoners. This is particularly relevant in the context of a more proactive approach to all people at risk of losing their home.
“In light of the above, I have decided to consult on a proposal to amend the automatic priority need for all homeless prison leavers, replacing it with an assessment of the vulnerability of the individual.”
Blaenau Gwent council will discuss and most likely approve the consultation response document written by its officers before it is returned to the Welsh Government. A report will be presented to the council seeking support for the already written response.
The report, written by Nicola Somerville, housing strategy and solutions team leader, said: “We agree with the proposal to amend the priority need status for former prisoners. Current arrangements do not provide any kind of deterrent for re-offenders as they know they will be priority upon release."
The Welsh Government hopes the new legislation will ensure targeted assistance is provided to everyone at risk of homelessness.
A WAG statement on the amendment said: "The new enhanced level of prevention-based help to all those threatened with homelessness, including former prisoners, will be much more likely to result in a positive housing outcome.
"It would also remove the unfairness in the system where a vulnerable law-abiding person may receive less priority than someone who is not particularly vulnerable but is involved in a cycle of re-offending."
Caerphilly and Monmouthshire County Borough Councils are currently in the process of finalising their response to the consultation.
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