The Duke of Cambridge has voiced concerns about the “terrible” lack of ex-offenders able to find housing following their release from prison during a visit to south east London.
His Royal Highness spoke to staff and volunteers from the St Giles Trust, which works with former criminals to help them break the cycle of crime.
The cornerstone of the trust’s work is to train serving prisoners and ex-offenders as advice workers, using the benefit of their own first-hand experiences.
Around 40 per cent of staff at St Giles Trust have a criminal conviction.
The Duke, who was Patron of the charity’s 50th anniversary year in 2012, received a tour of its head office in Camberwell before having lunch with business chiefs which support the trust.
He discussed the challenges facing the charity including problems finding private landlords to accept ex- prisoners as tenants after their release.
The Duke met prisoners out on licence and was shown the practical support offered by the trust in areas such as housing, improving skills, job opportunities and resettling into the community after prison.
Junior Smart, who founded the trust’s SOS team, which tackles gang and youth crime, praised The Duke for his “genuine interest” in their work with ex-offenders.
The 37-year-old from Southwark in London was jailed in 2001 for a drug-related offence but began work to tackle reoffending in 2006 following his release.
“I kept seeing the same young people again and again,” he said. “It motivated me to do something.”
The SOS team, which was founded seven years ago, now works with 500 young people a year across 10 London boroughs.
“He showed a genuine interest in what we are doing,” Mr Smart said. "You have got some of the MPs from the constituencies not taking an interest.
“Look at this room today – it’s buzzing.”
The Duke has previously praised the work of the St Giles Trust.
Speaking at a dinner in aid of the trust last year, he said: "This charity truly inspires me.
“It has touched the lives of a quarter of a million people over the past five decades.
“These are people from the margins of society who, thanks to this charity, were able to recover from an appalling start and go on to live successful, productive and positive lives.
‘’What started as a small soup kitchen for the homeless and destitute has become one of the leading charities in this country, helping ex-offenders to reform, resettle, and – critically – to break out of the costly and destructive cycle of reoffending.’’
During the tour, The Duke also revealed he had his “fingers crossed” for Wales’ rugby union team as he plans to attend their match with South Africa at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
Business chiefs from Asda, Timpson’s shoe retailer, HSBC, Barclays, global investment bank Nomura and law firm Eversheds law attended the royal visit after providing jobs for St Giles Trust clients and funding for the charity.
Rob Owen, Chief Executive of the St Giles Trust, said: "We are thrilled that HRH The Duke of Cambridge is lending his support to the work of St Giles Trust.
“We work with some of the most disadvantaged, socially excluded people in society, so his visit will help highlight the issues and challenges ex-offenders face.”