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Help with housing when you leave prison

The prison or probation service must refer you to a council's homeless team if you're:

  • homeless already or likely to be homeless in the next 8 weeks

  • being released in the next 8 weeks with nowhere suitable to stay

  • staying in probation or bail accommodation with nowhere to go next

They need your permission to do this.

You can also ask the council for homeless help yourself.

This is called making a homeless application.

If you qualify for release on bail or a tag

You need somewhere to stay before you can be released on bail or an electronic tag.

Court or prison staff may refer you to the Bail Accommodation Support Scheme (BASS) run by the charity NACRO if you have nowhere suitable to live.

Homeless applications before you leave prison

Ask the prison to refer you to a council homeless team 8 weeks before your release.

The council must look at your housing needs and give you a personal housing plan.

The homeless team should speak to people involved in your support and supervision. For example, probation, youth offending team or drug and alcohol services.

Homeless applications after leaving prison

You can ask any council for help but you might be referred to a different council if you have a local connection there.

You could have a local connection if, for example, you have:

  • close family or work in the area

  • lived in the area for 3 out of the last 5 years

  • lived in the area for 6 out of the last 12 months

Being in prison does not count as a local connection. Find out about local connection rules.

How to contact your council's homeless team

What is your location?

Who gets emergency housing?

Not everyone gets emergency housing when they make a homeless application.

The council must provide emergency housing if they think you may:

You always have a priority need if you're homeless because of domestic abuse, a care leaver under 21, pregnant or have dependent children with you.

You also have a priority need if you're considered 'vulnerable' because you're at much greater risk of harm than most people if you have nowhere to live.

For example, you could be vulnerable because of a physical or mental health condition or other reasons. The council should look at:

  • how long you spent in prison and when you were released

  • if you have found and kept a home since release from prison

What the probation service can do

Probation teams may be able to refer you to hostels, supported housing or private landlords.

If you're released on licence, the conditions of your licence might mean you cannot live in certain areas or that you have to stay in 'approved premises'.

Homeless hostels

Search for a hostel

Use the Homeless Link website to find hostels near you and how to get referred.

Select 'Accommodation' under 'Service types'.

If you have a dog

Search for a dog friendly hostel on the Dogs Trust website.

Find out more about hostels if you're homeless.

Help with money and travel

On the day of release, most prisoners will get:

  • a travel warrant or tickets

  • an £82.39 cash payment - often called a prison discharge grant

You must have spent at least 2 weeks as a sentenced prisoner to get these.

Prison governors can also make a discretionary payment of up to £50 direct to a housing provider if this will give you somewhere to stay on release.

Benefits to help with rent and other costs

You may need to apply for universal credit when you're released from prison to help with living costs. Universal credit includes a housing element to help with rent.

If you move in with a partner who gets benefits, you will need to claim benefits as a couple.

You will probably have to claim housing benefit to help with rent if you stay in a hostel, supported or temporary housing on release. You can still get universal credit to help with other living costs.

Read our advice on how to find a private landlord if you get benefits.

Turn2Us have more information about benefits for prisoners and their families.

If you do not have a bank account

You may need to open a bank account so you have somewhere to get your wages and benefits paid into.

Read our guide on how to open a bank account if you're homeless.

Unlock have useful online information about ID for prisoners and people on release. Unlock are a charity for people with criminal records.

Charities that could help

Nacro (National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders) 

0300 123 1999

Monday to Thursday 9am-5pm; Friday 1-5pm

Search for a Nacro service on their website.

Nacro provide advice, housing and other services.

St Giles provide community based services and support for prison leavers.

Get help from St Giles using their online form.

Women in Prison help women in prison and the community.

020 7359 6674 (women only)

Pact help prisoners and their families, in prisons and the community.

0808 808 2003 (family members only)

Monday to Friday 9am-8pm; Saturday to Sunday 10am-3pm

Last updated: 21 December 2022

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