An innovative programme which sees prisoners gaining skills and helping solve the housing crisis by constructing affordable eco homes has won a prestigious national award.
The Prisoners Building Homes (PBH) Programme – backed by South West Police and Crime Commissioners Alison Hernandez, David Sidwick, Mark Shelford, Chris Nelson and Philip Wilkinson – won the ‘Collaboration’ category in the Government Property Awards at a glittering ceremony in Westminster yesterday.
The awards recognise excellence and innovation in public-sector property management.
PBH is an innovative collaboration between public and private sector partners to unlock land and deliver affordable, high-quality, low carbon, sustainable modular homes nationally; while creating job opportunities for serving prisoners and prison leavers to enable them to turn their lives around and reduce the cycle of reoffending.
The ambitious programme started life in the South West, when prisoners at HMP Leyhill in Gloucestershire constructed panels of an eco-home which were then constructed in South Devon with the assistance of an ex offender who was being managed by the Probation Service.
By the end of 2023 the ambition is to have 40 serving prisoners in full time employment on day release or on post release arrangements and another 40 employed by opening disused prison workshops that have fallen into disrepair. Nine prisons across the country will benefit from the programme, with plans under way to involve more.
The programme is led by five South West Police and Crime Commissioners under the auspices of the South West Reducing Reoffending Partnership (SWRRP) (with representatives from HM Prison and Probation Service, Ministry of Justice, the Police, NHS England, Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, Youth Justice Board, Department of Work & Pensions, South West Councils, and the Voluntary Sector). The programme is also driven and supported by One Public Estate, who are partners under the programme alongside the West of England Combined Authority.
Programme delivery manager Sophie Baker said: “Being recognised for our work to build eco-homes with prisoners, helping solve our housing crisis and enable future work opportunities for those who have offended is heartening. Working with the Cabinet Office, Prisons, Local Government Association and Housing Providers has definitely been a collaboration worth pursuing to help those most in need.”
Alison Hernandez, Chairman of the SWRRB and Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: “We tested the concept in Torquay and it worked. We built a home for a young parent and gained work for the ex-prisoner who was helping build it in situ. It’s grown since then by working with the Cabinet Office to expand the concept into reality across the South West. I am so pleased that this programme is gaining the recognition it deserves and would love to see it expanded across the country.
Mark Shelford, Police and Crime Commissioner and Vice-Chair of the SWRRB: “This is so important for prevention of reoffending but also providing people on a low wage economy high quality accommodation that every council and housing providers should have a call to arms to become a part of this programme.”