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Homeless Ex-Prisoners (Care)

Volume 526: debated on Thursday 15 April 1954

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the number of discharged prisoners who are homeless, he will introduce legislation to set up a Government-controlled body to be responsible for looking after discharged prisoners in cases of necessity.

My right hon. and learned Friend is ready to consider, in consultation with the after-care organisations and the National Assistance Board, any specific proposals for improving the existing arrangements for the care of homeless ex-prisoners. On present information, however, he would not consider it either necessary or desirable to set up another body for this purpose.

While appreciating that answer, may I ask whether the Minister will go into the matter further, especially in view of the case I submitted to him on 2nd March, to which I have not yet had a reply? Is he aware that recently, in Birmingham, a man walked the streets for 36 hours, after being released from prison, before he was able to obtain a bed? It really is most tragic when so many men who have been in prison—I know it is a fact in Birmingham—are homeless and have no opportunity of being set on the road to rehabilitation. Is it not a very serious matter?

I think that the particular case the hon. Member has in mind is one where a man, after interviewing the local aid society, had a bed booked for him at a Salvation Army hostel, but did not turn up to claim it. Instead, he seems to have gone, on that night and on the following night, to other Salvation Army hostels where there was no room. The responsibility for this muddle is not clear. It will be looked into further, but I think it will be clear that a single case does not afford ground in itself for reviewing the whole system, still less for setting up a new service.

Every week there are several cases, especially in Birmingham, of homeless ex-prisoners. I have given one example, and there are more, of ex-prisoners who have actually committed crimes in order to get somewhere to sleep. It is a tragic situation. The Salvation Army is doing its best, but it does not support the view which the Minister expressed.

If the hon. Member has evidence that there are numerous such cases, I hope he will submit it to my right hon. and learned Friend, or myself.