Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Bill Debate

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Department: Ministry of Justice

Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Bill

Simon Fell Excerpts
Simon Fell Portrait Simon Fell (Barrow and Furness) (Con)
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

You will know, perhaps more than many in this place, that I am a simple man, Mr Deputy Speaker. Prior to researching this Bill, I had not spent a great deal of time thinking about the criminal justice system or how it worked. I had laboured under the belief that if someone committed a crime, served their time and paid back their debt to society, they would be afforded every opportunity to succeed on their release from prison and make a fresh start. I was disappointed to find out that often that is not the case and many people released from prison, especially those released on Fridays, are almost set up to fail from the moment they set foot outside the prison estate. They face a race against time to access statutory and non-statutory services—to meet their probation officer; visit a pharmacy or a GP; sort out their accommodation—all on a Friday, with services closing early, and with some being a distance away or even impossible to reach by public transport. Many of them therefore end up homeless, with no hope of accessing services until Monday morning at the earliest. So they have nowhere to stay, they have little support and the world is on their shoulders. Is it any surprise that up to two thirds of people released without access to accommodation reoffend within a year.

That race against the clock is maddening. With a third of all releases taking place on a Friday, this is a numbers game, and the numbers are very high indeed: reoffending costs the taxpayer £18 billion a year; and 80% of crime is committed by reoffenders. If we support people as they come out of prison, we can play a key role in reducing the significant societal and individual costs of reoffending, leading to fewer victims of crime and fewer communities dealing with its impact. This Bill is an important step towards doing that. By making a simple change, by varying the date of release for vulnerable people by up to 48 hours, we can relieve that time pressure and give people the opportunity to make a fresh start. This small but significant change would build on existing Government funding and support for people coming out of prison, including the funding of temporary accommodation for prison leavers at risk of homelessness. We need to end the practice of Friday releases for the most vulnerable, so that they have the vital extra hours and days they need to get support in place before the weekend arrives. This move is supported by charities, the third sector, those working in prisons, the probation service and the Local Government Association, and by former offenders who have been through the system. If the House will indulge me, I will pepper this speech with examples from a few of them.

Last month, I was fortunate enough to visit Wormwood Scrubs in London, to see Governor Frost and her team. It was a fascinating and eye-opening visit, and I am grateful for the time she and her team, and the brilliant third sector organisations, such as StandOut, afforded to accommodate me and answer some of my banal questions. Entering a prison, certainly one such as Wormwood Scrubs, feels very final indeed. You walk through a set of remarkable Victorian buildings and the first thing you notice is how solid the place is. There are big, thick walls, and heavy, metal doors. Everything is contained and segregated by keys. Each door is opened ahead of you and closes behind you, with a click. Your choices are limited to the space you have access to. The outside world, even though you can see it above and through the windows, feels maddeningly far away. As Governor Frost explained to me, when you leave a prison like the Scrubs, setting foot outside the estate for the first time, you face the

“first independent choice you can make in a while.”

If someone is released on a Friday, they have precious little time to make those choices and if they choose poorly, they may well find themselves back in prison. Some would rather see their family than comply with appointments, for some their addiction takes priority and others simply do not have time to make their appointments, with no chance of getting from point A to point B in the remaining hours of the day. When someone resides in Wormwood Scrubs at His Majesty’s pleasure, is released at 3pm on Friday and then has to see their parole officer in Cambridge that same day, what chance do they realistically have of making that appointment before 5 pm?

I have spoken to prison leavers who were released from custody on a Friday. Some were lucky and managed to get support, but the majority were left facing severe issues with access to key resettlement services. Some ended up on the streets over the weekend while waiting for housing services to reopen on the Monday. Even worse, some people I have spoken to were greeted at the prison gates by the smiling face of their drug dealer. Criminal gangs know just how hard it can be for people to work through their release checklist, meet their parole officer, sort their housing, go to the pharmacy and so on, so they offer a handout—one that comes at a very steep cost. So the merry-go-round continues: the person is recalled to prison, and it all begins again.

I am on the Select Committee on Home Affairs, which is undertaking an inquiry into drugs. In Middlesbrough earlier this year, we spoke to addicts and people in recovery about their life stories. The same issue came up time and again. Their experience is addiction, prison, release, shoplifting and other petty crimes, and imprisonment again. At no point does the process help them, their family or those who work in criminal justice. Nor does it help society. In my constituency, I have spoken to Cumbria police and the amazing Well Communities and have seen these issues time and again.

The nature of unstable releases means further addiction and ripe pickings for drugs gangs involved in county lines —the exact opposite of the outcome from imprisonment and rehabilitation that we might hope for. The chair of the Local Government Association’s safer and stronger communities board, Councillor Caliskan, says:

“With staff limitations at the weekend across a range of services, delays in accessing accommodation and a lack of early intervention from support services, vulnerable prison-leavers are at considerable risk of reoffending. In bringing release dates forward, this will ensure prison-leavers have enough time to access the right help and support to prevent them heading back towards previous criminal activities.”

I could not agree more.

If we want safer streets, we have to start by making access easier to vital services that reduce offending. If people do not have the support structure, including housing and healthcare, that they need in place on release, we simply risk depositing vulnerable people back in the hands of those who encourage harm over good. When I visited Wormwood Scrubs, the governor and her amazing team made that point again and again.

If the House will indulge me, I will read the testimony of Stanley, which was supplied by the fantastic charity Nacro. These are Stanley’s words:

“The biggest problem is not having a roof over your head. So many people come straight out of prison with nowhere to live and go straight on the streets. They have nowhere to go, nothing to do and end up doing something stupid just to go back inside.

When you come out, there’s nothing. No phone, no money, no ID, and if you don’t have someone helping you—you’re alone.

Me—I’d lost weight in prison. My jeans don’t fit and I don’t have a belt. It was freezing and I had no jumper. Yet I couldn’t get my advance payment because I didn’t have any ID. They told me to come to the job centre to sort it out on the Monday, but what am I going to do over the weekend? And I’m supposed to start work on Monday, and that’s not a good look, making excuses on your first day. We’re being set up to fail. 99% will go back to prison because they have no choice.

I came out of prison homeless. They’ve known I’d be released homeless for months. Yet, released on a Friday, it’s getting late in the afternoon, and I still have nowhere to go. And the housing officer has now gone for the weekend. No wonder people reoffend.

I’ve got an appointment with substance misuse services, but they can’t see me until Monday. But I’m supposed to start my job on Monday. And I can’t get an advance payment for UC because I don’t have any ID. They told me to come and see them on Monday instead. So now I’m faced with the weekend, with just the discharge grant to my name. I need to buy myself some winter clothes—it’s freezing—and I need to eat.

I’ve got hospital appointments. I take 6 different types of pills. I’m starting a job on Monday and can’t go to the job centre on my first day of work. This is what people have to deal with all the time.”

This is a comment from the Nacro resettlement worker who met Stanley:

“The holding cell on a Friday is rammed as such a high proportion of people in prison are released in Friday. It’s made worse by those whose release dates were set for the weekend, and are being released on a Friday instead. The pressure on the prisons and resettlement services is incredible. Yet, so many are being released without any support. Nothing. They don’t know who their probation officer is. Where they need to go. What they need to do. And on a Friday, it’s a race against the clock before services close.

“Unfortunately, for those without housing, the only option on a Friday is emergency accommodation if that is available. And then that person will have to through the whole process again on the Monday, all the while trying to get to a whole range of other appointments. And UC throws up another obstacle. Anyone who has been in and out of prison and has claimed an advancement payment after a previous release, is no longer eligible for another advance payment. Released on a Friday with just the discharge grant, those impacted are faced with a long weekend with just £76 pounds to their name.”

For many offenders, the day of release from custody is a realisation of a long-awaited goal: a chance to turn their backs on crime for good. But the reality for those released on Friday can be fraught with practical challenges to surmount. Those who need access to multiple support services before they close for the day, including local authority housing and mental health services, can face a race against the clock. Many services close early and are then shut over the weekend. Approximately a third of all releases fall on a Friday, so those services are under considerable additional pressure.

Simon Baynes Portrait Simon Baynes (Clwyd South) (Con)
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I thank my hon. Friend for his excellent speech. In the light of all his research and discussions to prepare his private Member’s Bill, why does he think these principles have not been adhered to before? The points he is making are so clear and obvious, so why, given all the attendant problems that come from Friday releases, is there a particular emphasis on them?

Simon Fell Portrait Simon Fell
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I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd South for his comments—I did well there; I do not usually get the constituencies right. The honest answer is that I do not know. Certainly, in the data that was brought out during covid specifically, we saw the impact of that. StandOut and a number of other good charities have raised this issue since then, and Nacro—the charity that supplied some of the case studies I have been using—has done some really effective campaigning on it. Like many of the things we see in this place and in our daily jobs representing our constituents, we often need to make maddeningly small changes to systems all over the place to improve people’s lot. This is one of those changes, and for that reason, I hope we can get it through.

Anna Firth Portrait Anna Firth (Southend West) (Con)
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As a barrister myself, I am aware, as other Members may be, that a sentence is calculated in days from the date on which it is given. If the date of release happens to fall on a Saturday or Sunday, it is then brought back to the Friday, which explains why Friday has ended up being the most popular day in the week. Does my hon. Friend agree that he is seeking to correct an unintended consequence and right an obvious wrong?

Simon Fell Portrait Simon Fell
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My hon. Friend hits the nail on the head. This is a factor of people’s releases falling on weekends or bank holidays and compressing almost a third of releases to Fridays. That is a real problem, as I have outlined.

As I have said, the reoffending rate for adults released on a Friday is higher than for any other day of the week. Those without stable accommodation on release are almost two thirds more likely to reoffend. Let us take the example of Simon—I am not referring to myself here. Simon was released from a London prison in April 2021. He has had a history of poor mental health and alcohol dependency. Owing to his complex needs, he met the threshold for priority housing. On the Friday when he was released, he received a phone call at 3 pm saying that no accommodation could be provided, despite the fact that his resettlement worker repeatedly chased the local authority housing department. It was agreed that Simon would travel to stay with his brother in Ipswich, but he did not make the journey. Simon’s resettlement worker rang several times that Friday evening, and it sounded as if Simon was with people, drinking on the streets. The resettlement worker was later advised that Simon had been recalled to prison shortly afterwards.



Then there is the example of Patrick, who was released from a two-year sentence in prison. He had an ankle injury and was supplied with crutches upon his release, which limited his mobility and therefore his ability to navigate multiple appointments across the area he was in. Although he was able to access his temporary accommodation that day, he was unable to address his other support needs on the day of release, such as his substance misuse issue. As a result, he had to wait until the following Monday to access support, which put him at significant further risk of reoffending. Patrick did not engage with services the following week and was recalled to prison shortly afterwards for failing to attend probation appointments.

By removing these barriers that a Friday release can create, we can ensure that custody leavers have a better chance to access the support they need to reintegrate into the community, so that the victims and the public are protected. As my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Anna Firth) said, the law currently mandates that offenders due to be released on a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday must be released on the preceding Friday, providing it is a working day. While that avoids releases on days when services are completely closed, the result is a bunching of releases on a Friday, with almost double the number on any other day of the week.

The Bill seeks to amend the law to provide the Secretary of State for Justice with a discretionary power to bring forward the release date of an offender by up to two eligible working days where that release date falls on a Friday or the day before a bank holiday. Such a power will promote law-abiding reintegration into society by ensuring that those leaving custody can access the support services they need upon release.

In practice, this power will be delegated to the prison governor or an equivalent official, with the provision targeted at those most at risk of reoffending. To be clear, we are not talking about dangerous or high-risk offenders, and there will be strict security screening of eligible prisoners. The Bill is aimed at helping vulnerable individuals with complex needs who may need additional support to help them make the transition back to life outside prison.

There is a fleeting window of opportunity for people on release from prison, and we simply must not allow those who are serious about making a positive and meaningful change in their lives to fall by the wayside. We should not be setting people up to fail. This is not about softening sentencing; it is about making sure that the right support is in place at the right time to prevent them from immediately falling through the cracks.

Evidence suggests that a Friday release day has a disproportionate impact on those with complex needs, those who have greater distances to travel upon release or those with substance or mental health needs, who face an increased risk of homelessness. Ministry of Justice research has shown that the release date can make a 5% difference in the likelihood of reoffending, with 35% of those freed on a Monday reconvicted within a year, compared with 40% on a Friday. Let us not forget that each of the individuals in that 5% represents a further unnecessary strain on the already stretched capacity of the prisons estate. More crime means more victims, and each of these instances of reoffending represents lost opportunities for reform after people have served their time and should be able to demonstrate their ability to rejoin and fully contribute to society.

Here is another example from Katie, a reducing reoffending officer from Nacro:

“In the past I have worked with many offenders who have been released on a Friday. Essex is a big area that includes 14 local authorities. HMP Chelmsford is a local Cat B resettlement prison, we have many prisoners that are in and out of custody on a regular basis.

Recently I worked with a man that has been in HMP Chelmsford approximately 7 times since I started the job in April 2019. This time he was released on a Friday. He has addiction issues and had been homeless for several years. Due to short prison sentences, we have been unable to do any meaningful work with him. My client had a probation appointment at 2pm in Colchester, a scripting appointment for his methadone at 3pm and a housing assessment that had to be completed over the phone at 2.30pm. At some point he also needed to make his Universal Credit claim, again over the phone due to Covid. He was released with his mobile phone that he had when he was brought into custody. No charge and no credit.

Luckily he made his probation appointment, which took over an hour as he had a new probation officer, that he had not met before. He missed both his scripting appointment and his housing assessment. Most probation officers are mindful of other appointments on day of release, and will offer some leeway if they are aware of conflicting appointments, but this involves our service users speaking out, and some aren’t too good at making their voices heard, especially when they are fearful of upsetting their probation officer and being recalled.

Friday releases often require our clients to prioritise their appointments and what is important to them. Unfortunately they don’t always prioritise the right thing. Some would rather see their family than comply with appointments, for some their addiction takes priority.”

For under-18s, a Friday release may mean a child going for two or even three days without meaningful contact with support services when they are at their most vulnerable. That is why the Bill applies to both adults and children sentenced to detention and will ensure the same provisions exist across the youth estate. This overdue change will bring consistency across the youth estate and, in respect of secure children’s homes, correct a long-standing omission. It is worth remembering that 15% of under-18s are imprisoned more than 100 miles from their homes, with 41% more than 50 miles away. It goes without saying that this poses an additional, significant challenge for some of the most at risk who leave detention.

I recognise that the Government are doing fantastic work to reduce reoffending and protect the public—work that will benefit all custody leavers. Several new roles, including housing specialists, prison employment leads, banking leads and neurodiversity support managers—that’s a mouthful—are being implemented, which will further benefit individuals to prepare for release by ensuring they have a roof over their head, meaningful employment or education in place and access to essentials such as a bank account or identification.

Simon Baynes Portrait Simon Baynes
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Picking up on my hon. Friend’s point, I am pleased to hear that the Government have introduced a number of key measures to reduce reoffending. From his research, the conversations he has had and his position on the Home Affairs Committee, does he feel that the range of services on offer to people immediately after they come out of prison are in themselves correct and of a good standard? Is the issue we are debating today therefore the actual access to those services on a Friday, or is he concerned that more could be done to improve the services for those coming out of prison?

Simon Fell Portrait Simon Fell
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Once again, I thank my hon. Friend for a very thoughtful intervention. He tempts me to go far beyond the bounds of this Bill. My view is that there are multiple challenges here. Just as people are infinitely complex and different, the services that exist in local authorities and on the prison estate around the country vary significantly. They could all be resourced more and better. That is a challenge that, sadly, I cannot quite meet in this Bill, but it is one we need to address. The key point that has come through my research is access to accommodation. If we can stop people being street homeless on release, we can really make a positive impact on their lives. If someone has the basics in place when they need them, they are less likely to reoffend, which means fewer victims of crime and safer communities.

It is worth considering what the wider pressures are on the system on Fridays. While prisoners are being released, others are being prepared for court. Later in the day, higher numbers of people are released due to those court appearances. Already pressurised housing services, offender managers, GPs and pharmacies face a surge in the closing hours of the closing day of the week, but all of this is avoidable.

By supporting this Bill, the House has the opportunity to provide offenders with vital extra time to meet their probation or supervising officer and access healthcare and other services ahead of the weekend, helping to cut crime and, ultimately, making our streets safer. The Bill will help to safeguard the public by taking away a large part of the driver that leads to reoffending, driven by these cliff-edge releases. I sincerely hope the House will agree that by making the simple change proposed by the Bill—varying the date of release for vulnerable people by up to 48 hours—we can relieve that time pressure, take away that cliff edge and give people the best opportunity to make a fresh start.

I will draw to a close with a quote from my good friend John Bird, the founder of The Big Issue, who was kind enough earlier this year to take the time to come to Barrow and pay a visit to The Well Communities, which is a fantastic local charity that faces the sharp end of many of these issues. Lord Bird said:

“I know from when I was homeless the deep and interconnecting link between prison and the streets. We need to break that link to have any hope of stopping this endless cycle of releasing people homeless and seeing them go back into prison. Ending Friday releases, with the linked increased risk of homelessness, is one positive move towards that.”

I find that my life is always easier when I listen to John, so I suggest it is a worthwhile thing for other Members to do. It seems to me that if we are serious about justice, about helping people to rebuild stable and rewarding lives, about relieving prison capacity, about improving outcomes and about reducing reoffending, passing the Bill is an important step in the right direction.

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Simon Fell Portrait Simon Fell
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With the leave of the House, I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to this debate and supported the passage of this Bill. In particular, I recognise the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich West (Shaun Bailey), who spoke with righteous fury about youth offenders and the many injustices they face in the system. His passion is well felt. My hon. Friends the Members for Dewsbury (Mark Eastwood), for Hastings and Rye (Sally-Ann Hart) and for Southend West (Anna Firth) spoke about the power of a criminal justice system that works to turn people’s lives around. That is absolutely the objective we should be aiming for. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury for the evocative term “Muscle Pit”, which is unfortunately stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

The hon. Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi) on the Opposition Front Bench spoke gracefully about why these measures matter, and I thank her and her party for their support. My hon. Friends the Members for Clwyd South (Simon Baynes), for Leigh (James Grundy) and for Gedling (Tom Randall) showed compassion and fairness in what they said; their contributions in this place are always marked by those qualities. My hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Jane Hunt) could, I am sure, have spoken for much longer on this subject. Her passion is heartfelt and her experience is long, and what she brings to this area makes her a credit to the House.

Finally, my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes North (Ben Everitt)—there he is, right behind me—spoke with passion about tackling homelessness. He is absolutely right, and I hope these measures will go some way to achieving those ends. I also thank my right hon. Friend the Minister for his kind and thoughtful words at the Dispatch Box, and thank him and his team at the Ministry of Justice for their graciousness in affording me time to learn about the subject, to kick around ideas with them and to talk about the issues that the Bill seeks to tackle. Their passion to improve the system is heartfelt and real, and it burns very bright indeed.

I owe a debt of thanks to the hon. Member for Workington (Mark Jenkinson), who passed this Bill on to me. Truly, he is the Pete Best to my Ringo, but I am incredibly grateful to him. The Bill will make a real difference, and I am grateful to everyone who has contributed and spoken on it, and for the support from both sides of the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to a Public Bill Committee (Standing Order No. 63).

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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Congratulations, Mr Fell, on your achievement.

Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Ministry of Justice

Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Bill

Simon Fell Excerpts
Simon Fell Portrait Simon Fell (Barrow and Furness) (Con)
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Welcome to your place, Mr Deputy Speaker. At the outset I want to thank all those who have contributed to the debates and in Committee. I can report that we have received broad support from colleagues across the House, from those on the Government Benches, from the SNP and the Liberal Democrats—although that is not apparent right now—and from our colleagues on the Opposition Benches. I hope that approach will continue throughout the debate today and, if we are successful, that it does so when the Bill goes to the Lords.

Being released from prison on a Friday presents a unique challenge for offenders who want to change their lives and turn their back on crime. Friday releases can be fraught with practical challenges that derail that goal. This Bill seeks to change that. Approximately a third of all releases currently fall on a Friday and, like on any other weekday, many of those released will need to access essential support services such as local authority housing, substance misuse support or even mental health services. However, on a Friday there is a unique race against the clock to get to these services before they close for the day. Many of them close early on a Friday and are shut for the weekend. Many people are released not that close to home, so they have to navigate their way to the services within a very narrow window of opportunity, with one eye on the clock, knowing that the cliff edge of the weekend is present. That is a daunting challenge.

If the House will indulge me, I will give an example of why this matters. David Dunn is the director of a charity called Release Mates, which is a group of prison leavers in long-term recovery from addiction who recognise the need for support for men and women in the immediate hours following their release from custody. David wrote to me:

“Release Mates is waiting at the prison gate for a prison leaver, ensuring they have food and clothes, taking them for a breakfast, accompanying them to the mandatory day of release probation appointment, then to the job centre to ensure he/she has funds to survive. Often, we then accompany the prison leaver to their local police station where they are required to report as part of a court order, and wherever possible we try to link prison leavers in with drug and alcohol services and/or mental health support. Our work with female prisoners…is often more complex as we are sometimes required to attend children’s services appointments on the day of release.

Our experience is that the job we do with prison leavers is significantly more difficult on a Friday. We are often required to find emergency accommodation for prison leavers, which on other days of the week is difficult but on Fridays is almost impossible. The weekend closure of drug and alcohol services regularly sees addicted prison leavers on opiate substitute medication without a prescription after a Friday release, inevitably leading to a relapse to Class A drugs. Without wishing to be critical of the probation service, they can offer very little help after noon on a Friday. Sometimes we are simply unable to complete all the appointments which a prison leaver is required to attend in one day. If that day is a Friday, a vulnerable person is often left to fend for themselves for 3 days before receiving help. I do not like to think of the chances a prison leaver being released on a Friday has without the kind of support which we offer.”

It is David’s final point that the Bill seeks to answer. Failure to access vital support can increase an offender’s likelihood of reoffending. We know that the reoffending rate for adults released on a Friday is higher than for any other day of the week, and that those without stable accommodation on release are almost 50% more likely to reoffend.

By removing the barriers that a Friday release can bring, we can ensure that prison leavers have a better chance to access the support they need to reintegrate into the community so that victims and the public are protected. The law currently mandates that offenders due to be released on a Saturday or a Sunday, or on a bank or public holiday, must be released on the preceding day, provided it is a working day. Although this avoids releases on days when services are completely closed, the result is a bunching of releases on Fridays, with almost double the number of any other day of the week.

This Bill will amend the law to provide the Secretary of State for Justice with a discretionary power to bring forward an offender’s release date by up to two eligible working days where their release falls on a Friday, or to the day before a public or bank holiday. In practical terms, the power will be given to a prison governor, director or appropriate equivalent official in the youth establishment to apply the policy to bring forward an individual’s release date.

Evidence suggests that a Friday release has a disproport-ionate impact on those with complex needs, those who may have greater distances to travel once they are released and those with substance misuse or mental health needs. Such a power will promote a law-abiding reintegration into society by ensuring that those leaving custody can access the support services they need on release.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
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My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech, and I entirely agree with him on the necessity of this Bill. Seeing the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter), in his place reminds me of many moons ago, when I chaired the crime and disorder reduction partnership in Hammersmith and Fulham where, on a weekly basis, we saw the problem of prisoners released from all over the country, but particularly from Wormwood Scrubs, not being able to access housing and finding themselves in a very difficult place.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Simon Fell) on introducing the Bill. Does he agree that housing is key to ensuring that those leaving prison are able to go straight back into a good pattern, as opposed to potentially falling back into whichever crime got them into prison in the first place?

Simon Fell Portrait Simon Fell
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My hon. Friend is right: accommodation is key. I know from speaking to my right hon. Friend the Minister that it is part of the puzzle that the Ministry of Justice is trying to bear down on. Ending Friday releases for vulnerable people is part of the challenge that we face, but stable accommodation, with the ability to gain access to bank accounts and mobile phones in order to register for services such as universal credit, is essential to helping people as they are released.

Like adults, children are more likely to be released on a Friday than on any other day. In addition to their inherent vulnerability as children, under-18s leaving custody have multiple and often complex needs, and a Friday release may mean going for two or even three days without meaningful contact with support services when they are at their most vulnerable. That is why the Bill applies to both adults and children sentenced to detention, and ensures that the same provisions exist across the youth estate.

Evidence shows that those who have the basics that they need on resettlement are far less likely to reoffend. The House has an opportunity to give offenders vital extra time in which to meet their probation officer or youth justice worker and gain access to support services such as healthcare ahead of the weekend, will which help to cut crime and ultimately make our streets safer. The fact is that many people released from prison, especially on Fridays, are almost set up to fail from the moment they step off the prison estate. If we support people as they come out of prison, we can play a key role in reducing the significant societal and individual costs of reoffending, leading to fewer victims of crime and fewer communities dealing with its impact.

The Bill is an important step towards doing that, and I sincerely hope the House will agree that by making the simple change that it proposes—varying the date of release for vulnerable people by up to 48 hours—we can relieve the time pressure, take away the cliff edge, and give people the best opportunity to make a fresh start. If we are serious about justice, if we are serious about helping people to rebuild stable and rewarding lives, and if we are interested in relieving prison capacity to improve outcomes and in reducing reoffending, passing the Bill is an important step in the right direction.

Sometimes it seems as if we in this place speak a different language from the one spoken in the world outside—a language that seems very different to the people we represent—but the Bill has reminded me that that is not the case. After Second Reading, my office in Barrow received a phone call from a serving prisoner, Gary, who had watched the proceedings on parliamentlive.tv. He had done better than many of the staff in my office! He is due for release on a Friday in August preceding a bank holiday weekend. Understandably, he is concerned about exactly the issue that the Bill seeks to address: being stranded without support or the ability to help himself for three days. It is no exaggeration to say that there are hundreds of Garys out there, all with the same concern, all wanting a fair chance to stand on their own two feet and to start a new life on release. I hope that by passing the Bill we will give them that chance: it is the very least that we can do.

I also hope that I have addressed, as fully as possible, the aims of the Bill and the positive impact that it will have, and I am proud to present it to the House for its Third Reading. In many respects it offers just a small change, but it is a change that will have a great and lasting impact for many people on leaving custody. I firmly believe that this is the right thing for us to do, and I hope that the House will join me in supporting it.

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Simon Fell Portrait Simon Fell
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With the leave of the House, I am incredibly grateful to friends—hon. Members on both sides of the House—for their support and valued contributions on the issue. Many have contributed on Second Reading, in Committee and on Third Reading, so I thank them all for the insight and passion that they brought to the debates. As constituency MPs, we all know people who have been affected by the issue, as has come out time and again.

I particularly thank my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mark Jenkinson), who passed responsibility for the Bill to me on his elevation to the Whips Office. He also kindly led the Committee stage ably and with real insight. My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler) has been a supporter of the cause in and out of office and I am grateful for his presence today—his passion for the subject is clear.

My hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Jane Hunt) is similarly passionate and experienced on the issue. In fact, she may be the only MP—this may be a parliamentary first—to have lobbied to be on a Bill Committee. I am incredibly grateful for that. My hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk (James Wild) made a thoughtful speech about the importance of giving people on release access to employment. His point was well made and, I hope, well heard.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) spoke powerfully about the challenges offenders face on release and the injustice of people being given the opportunity to stand on their own two feet again but not being able to take that opportunity because structural barriers are in their way. I think one of the reasons my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis), who I look down on from here, is so dry is the amount of hot air that emanates from him. [Laughter.] However, he made some serious points about why the Bill will make a difference on reoffending, which is what we all want.

Turning to those on the Opposition Benches, I greatly appreciate the thoughtful and contributory approach of the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter) and hope that when the Bill reaches the Lords it will be considered in a similar way. I should also thank the Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds), who has been incredibly supportive through this process. His presence at the Dispatch Box is a real comfort. I know he is passionate not just about this part of dealing with the challenges faced by those being released, but about trying to get to the bottom of and improving the wider structural issues which my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East mentioned. I also thank his incredible team at the Ministry—not least Robyn, who has been a huge support to me and my hon. Friend the Member for Workington—and the Clerks in the Public Bill Office, whose guidance has been a great help.

I also thank my constituents who have spoken to me about this issue, as well as charities—not least Sam Julius and the team at Nacro who have campaigned so much on this issue—chaplains, faith groups, and third sector organisations including Switchback, the Community Chaplain Association, Release Mates and the Well Communities in Barrow, all of which have supplied case studies, and, more importantly, work day in, day out with offenders to get them on their feet following release against incredibly difficult odds. I hope the passing of this Bill will make those odds just a little bit better.

Finally, I thank my good friend Lord Bird, who has agreed to shepherd this Bill through the other place if—or when—it passes here today. He is the founder of The Big Issue and a passionate supporter and campaigner for social justice, and he knows more than most why this issue matters. The Bill is in good hands.

This small Bill will, I hope, make a very big difference. I thank Members from across the House for their support.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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May I say that it is a particular privilege for me to be in the Chair to hear the Third Reading passed as a young Simon Fell was formerly a researcher of mine.