Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP today called for the expansion of throughcare after it was revealed that thousands of people leaving prison have nowhere to live and are having to register with councils as homeless, despite the well-established link between reoffending and the lack of a stable and affordable home.
In the last two years local authorities received 3,814 homeless applications from people identified as leaving prison, suggesting that around 20% of those released have to turn to this.
Earlier this year, the HM Inspectorate of Prisons reported "I see too many people who on their day of liberation do not know where they will be living" and that a clear consequence of this is that it can cause them to reoffend.
Throughcare sees support provided prior to release and continue seamlessly once people are back in the community, helping with housing, healthcare and benefits. An independent evaluation conducted in 2017 found that 78% of prisoners who received throughcare had not returned to custody.
Scottish Liberal Democrats are calling for throughcare to be extended to all, instead of only being statutory for those serving sentences of four years or more.
Liam McArthur said:
“These new figures show thousands of people are being sent on their way with nowhere stable to live. That’s disgraceful and irresponsible because we know this vastly increases the chance of their reoffending and undoing the good work done while they are in prison.
“Every single person should have seamless help with housing, employment and healthcare. If they end up re-offending to get a warm bed for the night or food for dinner then that is an appalling failure.
"Inspectors have previously uncovered that a third of people at one institution didn't have an address to go to on release. Another report found someone who slept in a tent for eight weeks before deliberately shoplifting to go back to prison for the sake of a roof over their head.
“The system clearly isn’t up to scratch. If the Scottish Government is serious about reintegrating people into society and curbing the bloated prison population, authorities need to be conscious of what happens to them after they leave.
“The Justice Secretary needs to take heed of this pressing problem, take responsibility for the circumstances people are released into and expand and invest in throughcare for all. Avoid people falling through the gaps will always pay dividends compared to the cost of their reoffending."