In 2007, Jiao lived in private rented accommodation with her youngest son – 10 year old ‘Kang’ and was employed full time.
In 2008, Jiao was sentenced to custody for drugs offences, possession, and breach. Kang was moved 30 miles away to live with his auntie and cousins in a two-bedroom flat. He started a new school and settled in well but found home life difficult because a lack of room meant he slept on the sofa for four years.
In 2012, when she was due for release, Jiao was feeling extremely anxious: She wanted to move to the area where Kang was attending school so that she could make up for what he had been through. However, she did not know the area at all and the local authority there had already told her that as she was deemed ‘intentionally homeless’ they may not be able to offer her a home.
Jiao also wanted to find employment quickly but knew this would be difficult without a stable home. Meanwhile, although social services were satisfied that Kang should return to her care upon release, they stipulated that this would only be allowed if she could secure suitable housing. Furthermore, she was due for release on a bank holiday and knew that she may not get to the Housing office in time before it closed for two days.
Aware of these challenges, Jiao’s Offender Manager referred her to the Together Women Project (TWP) for help and support.
TWP immediately arranged for Jiao to be released on temporary licence (ROTL) to be assessed at their women’s centre and she was subsequently accepted onto the Re-Unite programme. Re-Unite then liaised with the local housing department to ensure that she was given keys to temporary housing on the morning of her release so that she had somewhere to live with Kang over the bank holiday.
The temporary accommodation was far from perfect – several miles outside of the city centre and far from Kang’s school – and Jiao and Kang started to experience racial abuse from neighbours which made them both scared to leave the house in the dark.
In those early days, Re-Unite helped Jiao in a number of ways: She was supported to apply for benefits and a community care grant and to access food parcels and other emergency items.
English was not Jiao’s first language and she did not know her new city at all but Re-Unite was able to help her attend appointments with the job centre and with probation and provide much needed moral support. Jiao was also supported to report the racial abuse to the local police neighbourhood team.
Finding a home
Meanwhile, if she wants to retain the care of Kang and find employment, it is crucial for Jiao to secure some permanent, safe housing for herself and Kang.
Unfortunately, before they would place Jiao on their waiting list, Housing requested proof that Kang would be returning to Jiao’s care permanently. However, social services were reluctant to provide assurances until they knew that Jiao had appropriate, stable housing.
Re-Unite intervened and was able to acquire a suitable letter from social services stating that Kang was able to return to his mother’s care for the time being and a letter from Kang’s aunt stating he was no longer able to stay with her due to finances and overcrowding.
Housing finally agreed to complete an assessment of Jiao’s priority and have now said that due to the care of her son, her ‘intentionally homeless’ status will be removed and she will be housed.
Jiao is now on the housing waiting list and looking forward to a new home. She hopes that it will be close to Kang’s school. She continues to attend the TWP centre at least twice a week and is receiving support to gain employment and to increase her engagement with the community in her new city. It has been agreed with her offender manager that attending TWP will be part of her license appointments.
Kang has continued to attend school and is coping well with his change of circumstances.
Jiao told us: “It was nice to be able to attend [the TWP centre] before I came from prison. They helped me understand what I had to do to get housing, money and make sure my son could come and live with me. My worker went with me to housing and knew what to say, she even came with me on Christmas Eve. I wasn’t sure what exactly you did but sorting out my housing for me was really important to me”
March 2013 update: Jiao has recently started part-time work in a nail salon and is delighted to be providing for her family again. Re-Unite has continued to advocate for Jiao and Kang and finally a Housing Association has stepped in and offered the family a six-month assured shorthold tenancy as a temporary measure until a more permanent home can be found near Kang’s school. Social care are satisfied that Kang’s needs are being met and they are no longer involved with the family. Happily, the new property is three bedroomed which has meant that Jiao’s 22 year old daughter has also been able to join the family.