98.Older prisoners can face distinct challenges on their release from prison. Those who have served a long sentence and experienced institutionalisation can, in particular, struggle to reintegrate into society. They may be unfamiliar with using new technologies; applying for employment and housing; and accessing benefits and pensions. Relationships older prisoners had prior to entering custody may have broken down due to the length of their sentence or the nature of their offence. Often, other prisoners can, in effect, become their surrogate family. Release can therefore create social isolation and older prisoners may lack social support in the community. Those receiving medical treatment or social care in prison will need to be able to continue to access it after their release and find appropriate accommodation.
99.For the reasons set out above, older prisoners may require additional support and guidance prior to their release to prepare them to re-join society. This could include practical information around using modern technology, applying for housing and benefits, and accessing community health and social care. We were informed of good practice by prisons in partnership with voluntary sector organisations. For example, at HMP Eastwood Park, a day centre set up by RECOOP has been running since 2011, providing older women prisoners with pre-release support and guidance. In addition, the Prison Reform Trust reported how:
Two prisons were working with the Ormiston Trust, to help maintain relationships with families whilst in custody. Restore Support Network offer older prisoners through the gate support and a peer network that encourages positive relationships. RECOOP staff in HMP Leyhill help prepare older people for release by accompanying them on day trips into the community to help them acclimatise and with practical support such as applications for bus passes.
100.However, evidence indicated that resettlement preparation and planning in many prisons tends to be orientated towards younger prisoners and does not consider the specific needs that older prisoners can have.
101.In addition, older prisoners can struggle to transfer to open prisons to access release on temporary licence (ROTL). This can be an effective way to support their resettlement and allow them gradually to re-integrate into society. However, only two open prisons currently accept prisoners convicted of sexual offences (Leyhill and North Sea Camp). As already noted, almost half of older prisoners are serving sentences for sexual offences. Consequently, a substantial backlog of prisoners suitable for open conditions await transfer to these prisons, for a year in some cases according to the IMB.
102.Older prisoners can experience greater levels of institutionalisation and be less able to live independently following their release compared to younger cohorts. Many will require additional support to prepare them to re-join society. Release programmes and guidance that are age relevant, focusing on issues such as using technology, finding accommodation, and accessing pensions and benefits, should be available to all older prisoners.
103.Finding appropriate accommodation for prisoners after their release is central to ensuring their successful resettlement and preventing reoffending. However, it can be very difficult for older prisoners and prison authorities assisting them to find post-release accommodation. A large proportion of the cohort moves to approved premises after release. This may be required as part of an older prisoner’s licence conditions, in reflection of the nature of their offence. Residence in approved premises may also be necessitated as many local authorities and housing agencies will not accept people who have been convicted of sexual offences, which many older prisoners have committed. However, approved premises are often not able to accommodate individuals with disabilities, accessibility needs or complex health conditions. In oral evidence, Paul Grainge, Chief Officer of RECOOP, highlighted this and some of the wider issues older released prisoners can face in approved premises:
Many of the approved premises are Victorian townhouses. They have limited flat disability-compliant ground floor accommodation. They are up and down stairs, which is a struggle. There is not the resource in the AP provision to help people with orientation, building the community links that are so important to reduce fear and anxiety as they live and build social capital in a brand-new town.
104.Residence in approved premises is temporary. It was noted that, for the same reasons as above, it can be particularly difficult for older prisoner to find housing following the initial licence period after their release. The lack of social connections in the community some older prisoners face can exacerbate this issue further, as they may not have family or friends with whom they can stay. These problems can also affect prisons not required to live in approved premises.
105.Difficulties finding post-release accommodation for older prisoners can result in their remaining in prison despite being eligible for parole. As well as being detrimental to older prisoners’ resettlement, this can also contribute to ‘bed blocking’ and overcrowding within a prison. When accommodation cannot be found before the end of an older prisoner’s sentence, this can result in their being released to no fixed abode and facing homelessness. Evidence we received from a former prisoner highlighted incidences of this:
[A] person I knew was told he would have a flat upon release and when he arrived at his probation office was told he would have to find his own accommodation as there was nowhere available for him, this after 6 months of writing to everyone he knew to make this arrangement. One disabled gentleman confined to a wheel chair had no idea where he would be placed even on the day of his release when a taxi turned up to transport him to his probation office. Another person I met at my Hostel had to go to the extent of pitching a tent in the woods at the age of 70 before the local authority would consider his case and he had a physical infirmity as well.
106.There is a shortage of suitable accommodation for older prisoners following their release, which can undermine their rehabilitation and prevent them from successfully re-integrating into society. We are particularly concerned about reports of older individuals being released to no-fixed abode. With the older prison population likely to rise further, and the number of prison places set to increase, the Government must ensure that there is suitable provision of age-appropriate post-release accommodation, including housing for those with complex health or care needs.
107.Older prisoners in receipt of medical treatment or social care in prison will need to continue to receive it after their release, to ensure both their health and rehabilitation. The level of care and support a prisoner receives in custody may be different to what is required in the community. Though prison can be difficult for older prisoners in many respects, basic needs, such as food and clean clothes, are readily available and some older prisoners may not be able to fulfil these independently following their release. For this reason, some individuals not receiving support in prison may need it in the community.
108.Evidence indicated that there has been some improvement in the planning, preparation and provision of social care for prisoners leaving custody since the implementation of the Care Act 2014. However, we heard that cooperation and integration between the often multiple organisations involved in arranging an older prisoner’s post-release care is not always adequate. Some older prisoners are released without their care assessment or plan being referred on to providers in the community. This can be because prison care providers are not made aware that they are about to be released. The CQC reported that where care plans for older prisoners are in place, their quality relies on being able to confirm an individual’s destination. HMIP noted cases of poor communication between prisons and local authorities regarding the release of prisoners in receipt of social care, including delays in providing discharge notifications to local authorities. We were also informed of disputes between different local authorities over which was responsible for providing care to an individual after their release. According to ADASS, it is not always clear whether the local authority providing care to someone in prison continues to have responsibility for their support following release.
109.Concerns were also raised about prisoners being released without prescribed medicines. This disproportionately affects older prisoners as many are prescribed multiple forms of medication, meaning there is a higher risk of interrupting their treatment, with serious consequences for their health. In addition, older prisoners are frequently released without being registered with a GP and any formal ID, which can prevent them from registering with one after they are released.
110.In written and oral evidence, the Government highlighted the development of the NHS’s new RECONNECT service, which will support vulnerable individuals with complex health and care needs engage with health services as they leave prison. According to the Government, these services will engage with prisoners before release, and support resettlement. NHSE/I has committed £20 million to the RECONNECT over the next five years, and the development of the service was welcomed by some evidence we received.
111.Prisons, local authorities, and health and care providers do not always work together effectively to ensure continuity of older prisoners’ health and social care. This can have a detrimental impact on an individual’s health and their efforts to re-integrate into society. The development of the new RECONNECT service is welcome, but we recommend that the Government implement further measures to promote integration between organisations involved in continuity of prisoners’ health and social care.
112.We are concerned about reports of older prisoners being released without prescription medication or without being registered with a GP. We recommend all older prisoners are supported to register with a GP prior to release; where a prisoner is unable to do so, they should be provided with guidance and formal ID so they are able to register once they are released into the community. We further recommend that HMPPS implement safeguards to ensure all prisoners are provided with any prescription medication on their release.
248 Women in Prison ()
249 Age UK ()
250 G4S ()
251 Serco Ltd ()
252 Age UK (); British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy ()
253 Ministry of Justice, Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England, NHS England and Improvement ()
254 Prison Reform Trust ()
255 G4S (); Independent Monitoring Boards (); HM Inspector of Prisons ()
256 Clinks and RECOOP ()
257 Independent Monitoring Boards ()
258 Independent Monitoring Boards ()
259 Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) ();
260 Clinks and RECOOP ()
261 Criminal Justice Alliance ()
262 Criminal Justice Alliance (); Clinks and RECOOP ()
264 ; G4S ()
265 G4S ()
267 Independent Monitoring Boards (); Criminal Justice Alliance (); Prison Reform Trust ()
268 Clinks and RECOOP ()
269 Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) (); Age UK ()
270 A former prisoner ()
271 Serco Ltd ()
272 Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) ()
273 Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) ()
275 Care Quality Commission ()
276 HM Inspector of Prisons ()
277 Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) ()
278 Care Quality Commission ()
279 Prison Reform Trust (); Women in Prison ();
280 Ministry of Justice, Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England, NHS England and Improvement ()
281 Ministry of Justice, Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England, NHS England and Improvement ()
282 Serco Ltd (); Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) ()
Published: 27 July 2020