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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Peer prisoner housing advisers at HMP Magilligan

Ciaran and John are currently in custody at HMP Magilligan. They got a housing qualification after completing an OCN accredited Housing Rights’ training course.  This enabled them to take on the role of peer prisoner housing adviser.

The work of the peer prisoner housing adviser

The work of the peer is to help resolve simpler housing issues and address homelessness issues for prisoners.  They also refer more complex matters to the housing rights adviser in each prison.

When new prisoners enter custody, the peer housing adviser delivers a comprehensive presentation on a range of housing matters, focusing on frequently faced issues and some common housing misconceptions.  They also tell everyone coming into prison about the advice service. 

The peer advisers give both time and commitment to prisoners who need it, providing a vital role supporting the Housing Rights staff to reach more people who need advice.

“The peer advisers are an invaluable part of the housing advice team in HMP Magilligan. Because of their skill and commitment, we have been able to ensure that prisoners get initial, quality advice much earlier, and that those who need advocacy and continued support are identified at the appropriate time.”
Housing Rights prisons adviser

Impact of the peer prisoner housing advisers

Housing Rights’ experience has shown that prisoners tend to engage well with fellow prisoners. This is evident at the induction sessions and is particularly the case for the more vulnerable prisoners who have been through the prison system many times.   Ciaran and John agree that peer advice can be more effective when giving advice in the prison.

“Prisoners open up to us more. If they feel you are in the same boat, in the same situation, they will tell you more.”

The project isn’t just about allowing Housing Rights to reach more people. It also provides a vital service in giving prisoners a tangible skill that can be used on their release.

Daniel* is an ex-prisoner who worked as a peer adviser. Now released, he volunteers a couple of days a week for an advice agency in Belfast, providing housing advice.

“I wouldn’t be there if it hadn’t been for Housing Rights’ training.”

The future

On a recent visit to HMP Magilligan, the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons said that it was a leading example in terms of resettlement and rehabilitation. He was noted as saying prisons in England and Wales should learn from the peer model and he particularly highlighted the work of Housing Rights and the peers as ‘exceptional’.

In the future, Housing Rights would like to see more peers like Daniel use their skills to provide them with opportunities on their release.

Tagged In

Homelessness

Author

Frances McGrath