Tuesday 6 December 2016

Plans to help prisoners and sex offenders in housing policy

Published 24/07/2016 | 02:30

Housing Minister Simon Coveney. Picture: Tom Burke
Housing Minister Simon Coveney. Picture: Tom Burke

The Government's Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness includes measures to help former prisoners and sex offenders get accommodation once they are released.

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Housing Minister Simon Coveney's plan to solve the housing crisis promises to implement better procedures to ensure such individuals don't end up homeless.

However, the Justice Department couldn't say how many ex-prisoners or sex offenders fall into that category.

The Irish Prison Service confirmed that 17,420 people were released from jail last year but it doesn't maintain statistics on how many ended up on the streets.

The Probation Service is supervising 114 sex offenders but a Justice Department spokesman said that while the authorities are "aware of the circumstances" of all such individuals, it doesn't collate figures for how many are homeless.

Mr Coveney's Rebuilding Ireland action plan promises that the Government will "enhance inter-agency arrangements to ensure that accommodation, welfare and health support for prisoners are in place prior to their release".

It commits to a time-line of doing this by the end of September this year with the Prison and Probation Services, the Local Government Management Agency and the Housing Department among the agencies involved.

Separately, the plan also commits to implement national procedures to enhance cooperation between agencies in the accommodation of sex offenders by the end of June 2017.

The aim is to "reduce the occurrence of released offenders being accommodated in emergency arrangements".

Homelessness charity, the Peter McVerry trust, has been critical of the lack of supports for ex-prisoners.

Its National Director of Services, Brian Friel, told a Dail Committee in May: "Far too often, people are freed from prison to go directly into our homeless services."

A spokesman for the charity told the Sunday Independent that it sought the inclusion of measures to help ex-prisoners in the action plan.

He said such help reduces re-offending and "increases their likelihood of reintegrating into the community and a better outcome for everybody involved."

He pointed to figures from the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) that give an indication of many homeless people ended up in jail in the capital saying: "Those people are going to need accommodation when they come out the other side."

The figures show 125 instances of people in emergency accommodation being imprisoned in the 15 months to the end of March.

Mr Coveney's new plan contains more than 80 actions designed to tackle the housing crisis, including the provision of 47,000 social-housing units by 2021.

Sunday Independent

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