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A University of Ulsterconference is tofocus onthe need for suitable housing for ex-offenders tohelp prevent them from returning to crime.

Criminal justice and housing experts will gather at the Jordanstown campustomorrow(FridayMay 18) to discuss a range ofhousingoptions andsupport mechanisms to help reduce the risk ofthem committing a further offence.

Government research carried out by the National Audit Office (2010) shows that there is a link between homelessness, offending and re-offending.

Speakers at the conference entitled “Homelessness Prevention and Meeting Housing Need for Ex-offenders” will share ideas and thoughts ondrawing upa strategic approach to suitable housing options.

The event is being organised by Peter Shanks, a Lecturer in Housingat Ulster, who explained that a lack of suitable accommodation can be detrimental to the successful reintegration of ex-offendersback into the community.

Mr Shanks said:“Links between homelessness and offending are well established and suitable housing has been identified as one of the key factors that can reduce re-offending.

“It’s recognised that suitable and secure accommodation is the main pathway for the resettlement and reintegration of ex-prisoners and ex-offenders back into the community.

“Despite the considerable involvement of housing advice agenciesandvoluntarysector organisations– interms of offering advice and support–gaining accesstosecure and stable housing remains a key challenge.”

“Temporary accommodation is not always conducive to long term resettlement”

Mr Shanks spoke of how collaborative working across the public, private and voluntary sectors must be encouraged to develop.

“There are still a number of barriers to effective housing provision, especially securing medium and long-term accommodation,” he explained.

“This is largely due to a lack of available housing stock and difficulties arisingfor some ex-offenders in trying to access private sectoraccommodation.”

Paddy Gray, Professor of Housing at Ulster, explained thatre-offending behaviour among people experiencing homelessness is often connected with support needs.

“Research has shown that to avoid repeat offending and continued housing issues, the accommodation needs of ex-prisoners must be addressed along with wider resettlement needs, including mental health, substance misuse, education, training and employment,” he said.

“Ex-offenders face a variety of challenges on leaving prison, especially if they did not have stable housing prior to starting their sentence.”

“Co-ordination betweenthe PrisonService, the Probation Board, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive,independenthousing adviceagencies and other voluntary and community sector organisations is critical in ensuring that ex-offenders are given the necessary housing and support services when released.”

Notes to Editors:

Speakersat tomorrow’s conference, which includes a broad range of delegates from the private, public and voluntary sectors,include:

Brian Grzmek, Deputy Director Reducing Offending –Department ofJustice

Paul Thompson, Co-ordinator of Approved Accommodation and Manager of the Public Protection Team – Probation Board for Northern Ireland

Maurice Rooney, Principal Officer (Housing Policy) – Northern Ireland Housing Executive

Pat Conway, Director of Operations – Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders

Liz Cuddy, Chief Executive – Extern

Paula Quigley, Programme Co-ordinator – Smartmove Northern Ireland

Peter McMahon, Project Manager – Housing Rights Service

Lindsay Conway OBE, Director of Social Service – Presbyterian Social Witness

The conference takes place in the Loughview Suite at the University of Ulster’s Jordanstown campus from 9am until 1pm.