All six replication pilots have been up and running for at least a year and early indications are that they are really making a difference.
We are now actively seeking to expand into more areas, particularly neighbouring regions and cities, where we hope existing Re-Unite projects will be able to make connections and cross referrals.
Re-Unite progress to date
How many women is Re-Unite working with?
This update focuses specifically on the Re-Unite replication pilots (those outside of London), but keep in mind that Re-Unite South London (the original pilot) is also going strong and has supported 36 women with 55 children so far.
In our last update (November 2012) our replication pilots were working with 17 women and 33 children, so it was exciting, this month to realise that we are now working with 28 women and 57 children.
16 of those 28 women are now being supported in Re-Unite homes: 12 are in family-sized homes and four are in single person accommodation for the time being.
The remaining 12 women are living in a variety of temporary arrangements while their Re-Unite projects work to support them into something more stable.
What have we achieved?
Re-Unite has a 90% success rate in preventing reoffending. Of the 28 women that we have worked with outside London, only one woman has reoffended and one has breached the terms of her licence and been recalled to custody. Only one woman has disengaged from Re-Unite and, sadly, we do not know her whereabouts.
Ten women have now been housed by Re-Unite replication projects for 6 months or more and we have been able to track their progress:
- All 10 women sustained their tenancy for 6 months with no gaps.
- Eight are living permanently with their children and 2 are in single person accommodation with unsupervised or supervised contact.
How quickly are we housing the families?
For a variety of reasons, we are finding that very few women can be accommodated in suitable, family housing immediately after leaving custody. On average it takes around six months to reunite a family.
There are a number of reasons:
- High former tenant arrears sometimes cause a barrier to accessing social housing and women may stay in hostels or with family or friends while this is resolved.
- New child benefit claims can take up to 90 days to process and it is the lead benefit for all other benefits (e.g. child tax credit, housing benefit) so most women are prevented from taking on a tenancy until it is processed.
- A significant number of women are assessed as ‘non-priority’ due to a decision made by local housing offices that they have made themselves intentionally homeless by committing an offence.
- Many of the women we work with need time and support to work towards being reunited with their children – often including periods of supervised contact and unsupervised contact. Social services have involvement with 72% of the children on the Re-Unite programme – with over half of those children having current child protection plans.
The children on the Re-Unite programme
Outside of London, Re-Unite is working with 57 children with an average age of 7 years old.
While their mother is in custody or homeless, the majority (39%) are living with their grandparents. Sixteen percent are living with their father and more than a quarter (26%) are in local authority care. We have also found that 26% of the children have been separated from a sibling.
What else have we learned?
One Re-Unite project has had some success in challenging decisions that a women has made herself intentionally homeless. They have found that a letter from Social Services to the local authority, which explains that the child may be homeless as a result of the decision, can result in a review of the application. Get in touch if you’d like more information.
One Re-Unite project has reported difficulties with information sharing protocols. Professionals can (understandably) be reluctant to discuss potential Re-Unite clients without information sharing agreements in place. These are difficult to obtain if women are being transferred across the prison estate or when women are serving short sentences and time is limited. Get in touch if you have found a solution.
There have been concerns voiced from across the Re-Unite network that there is not enough temporary, safe accommodation (including supported accommodation) available for women when they are released. This problem is further exacerbated by the new legislation which forces women under 35 to live in a single room in a shared house. The average age of the mothers that Re-Unite works with is 31.
In the last few months, each of the replication projects has hosted a visit by Re-Unite founding partners Housing for Women. Good practice was shared and all involved have reported how beneficial it had been.
Re-Unite Greater Manchester and Re-Unite Birmingham have combined efforts to support a woman in prison in the Midlands who hopes to locate to the Manchester area on release.
Re-Unite Gloucestershire has been successful in attracting some funding from the J.Paul Getty Junior Trust which will enable them to dedicate more time to Re-Unite. This should increase referrals and allow Re-Unite Gloucestershire to accept women from outside Gloucestershire who are fleeing domestic violence.
Re-Unite South London was referenced in a report published last month by the g320 group of smaller housing associations operating across London. The report highlights the value and importance of smaller housing associations and especially the often specialist services they deliver. The report is available here:
Re-Unite South Yorkshire has now provided information about their service to Askham Grange in York, which has resulted in their first referral from that prison.