Published: 09:53, 26 February 2019
| Updated: 16:42, 26 February 2019
Ex-offenders face a life on the streets as a stand-off between two authorities continues over who should fund vital accommodation.
Kent County Council has spent months arguing with the Ministry of Justice that former criminals should be the responsibility of the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Company.
Graham Gibbens, cabinet member for adult social care and public health, has now written an urgent letter to Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke pleading with him to help resolve the dispute and avoid a "very public failure".
Cllr Gibbens revealed KCC spends almost £630,000 each year on funding help for those who have served their time for violent crimes and sexual offences despite cuts to their own revenue.
A change of contracts handed out by the council means many charities, such as Pathways to Independence, must tell their current clients they will no longer have a roof over their heads from March 31.
In a letter to MP David Gauke, Cllr Gibbens said: "I am writing to draw your urgent attention to around 80 offenders in Kent that face eviction from their accommodation on March 31 because neither the National Probation Service or the Community Rehabilitation Company will provide the necessary supervision and rehabilitation support.
"I know that the Police and Crime Commissioner is among those who are extremely concerned that offenders, including those on the sex offenders register and those having committed violent offences, will be leaving their accommodation, many midway through their support plans.
"To date the council has been funding and commission these offender-related services but cannot continue to do so. It is clearly the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice. Against the backdrop of significant reduction in revenue support which in Kent has reduced from £225 million to £9 million for the coming year. We are currently spending £629,368 per annum on the service.
"Council Officers have over several months now tried to engage with the NPS and CRC so they can make appropriate arrangements to no avail. I suspect that you are not aware of this and what will be a very public failure by the Ministry of Justice to support this group of people with the increase in risk that they will reoffend and the implications for the wider justice system.
"You will appreciate that the failure of the NPS and CRC to provide the appropriate supervision and rehabilitation support that will enable them to stay in their accommodation is causing considerable alarm across our communities. I trust you will be able to intervene and reassure us accordingly."
Helen Campbell-Wroe, co-director of Pathways to Independence, helps provide accommodation through six hostels to 37 individuals who have a criminal history.
She said: "This organisation has been providing ex-offenders with this service for more than 30 years. These people have done their time and tariff.
"This week I am serving a 28-day notice. We as a homeless charity are having to make people homeless which is awful.
"This is removing 40% of our funding in one fell swoop. The main issues are where the men are going to go and that these provisions have been removed entirely from Kent."
Last week it was revealed young adults, many vulnerable, were told they would no longer be able to live at Trinity Foyer, in Church Street, Maidstone, following a change of service provider.
People aged 18-24 will have to find alternative accommodation or face being homeless on April 1.
Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott added: "I share Kent County Council’s concerns about the need to find a long-term solution to this potential problem and hope that you might be able to assist.
"Kent County Council’s strong leadership in taking on this gap in provision has been welcome. But with their resources being further stretched, and those of both Kent Police and my office not in a position to take up the funding gap, we need another approach."
The Ministry of Justice said the National Probation Service has to liaise with councils to secure accommodation for ex-offenders, even if it isn't a housing provider itself, and insists 230 more beds at bail hostels will be provided over the next two years.
A spokesperson added: “Kent County Council has made a decision not to invest in accommodation services to ex-offenders and we continue to work closely with them over options moving forwards.
“As part of the Government’s efforts to encourage long-term rehabilitation and ultimately reduce reoffending, we are working to ensure that everyone leaving prison has access to secure and stable accommodation.
“We’re investing £22 million in through-the-gate services to strengthen ties with key partners, including the third sector, local authorities and the police. We have also started a £6 million scheme that will help them stay off the streets and away from crime.”
A spokesman for Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company, said: “New laws in 2015 stripped probation services of their budget to provide supported accommodation to offenders, shifting the statutory responsibility to councils.
“We continue to supervise the people affected by this decision but have no remit or funding to provide housing. We will continue to work with the council to find a solution.”