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Employment: Prisoners Release

Volume 472: debated on Monday 3 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what Government assistance is provided for prisoners to secure work on release from prison; and what changes in types of support have been made since 1992. (191210)

Jobcentre plus offers extensive help to those leaving prison. The following have all been introduced since 1992.

Employment and Benefit Surgeries—In prison-based Employment and Benefit Surgeries, Jobcentre Plus advisers work in co-operation with the Prison Service and other agency staff to address the key employment and benefit needs of prison inmates during both the entry and pre-release stages of their period in custody.

New Deal—Offenders are entitled to early entry, from day one of their claim, to the new deals, including the New Deal for Young People, which applies to 18 to 24-year-olds, thereby giving them access to help with finding a job and dealing with their barriers to employment.

Freshstart—Freshstart involves pre-arranging a new jobseeker interview to claim benefit (jobseeker’s allowance) at the prisoner's home Jobcentre Plus office, on release. As well as speeding up the process for receiving benefit, the individual is exposed at the earliest opportunity to jobs and the prospect of engaging with mainstream provision, to which, in most cases, they will have early entry status. Last year 35,000 interviews were booked

Rapid Reclaim Process—Jobcentre Plus also operate a “Rapid Reclaim Process” for jobseeker’s allowance, income support and incapacity benefit (employment support allowance also when introduced). This service is available if a short-term prisoner reclaims within 13 weeks of their last claim and circumstances have not changed. There are simpler and shorter forms and the processing of the benefit is easier.

Progress2work and progress2workLinkUP—Special programmes aimed at helping clients with drug misuse, the homeless, ex-offenders, and alcohol misusers deal with the particular barriers to work that they face. Both programmes are run by specialist providers who have established expertise in dealing with the issues faced by these client groups. Progress2work is a national programme; progress2workLinkUP is in almost half of Jobcentre Plus districts.

Early Custody Licence—DWP shared services administer grants on behalf of the Ministry of Justice for those released on early custody licence.

Exit to Work—Exit to Work is an action-research project trailing a new way of engaging employers and moving ex-offenders into work. The project is being managed by Working Ventures UK in collaboration with DWP, Jobcentre Plus, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and the Ministry of Justice. Exit to Work takes a two-pronged approach to tackling employment and skills-related issues for offenders:

a network of seven Job Developers (across Birmingham, London, Manchester, Merseyside, Teesside, and South Yorkshire) whose role is to be a single point of contact for the employer, to help them understand the benefits of recruiting ex-offenders and how to mitigate the risks and to orchestrate the range of support available to provide the employer with a seamless package; and

managing an information and vacancy sharing website, which allows CVs of ex-offenders to be uploaded, evaluated, and accessed on behalf of potential employers.

Jobcentre Plus engages with young offenders both in custody and in the community. Dependant upon the customer’s age, a range of support becomes available.

Young offenders in custody have access to employment and benefit surgery advisers and can get employment and training advice as well as Freshstart appointments upon release to claim jobseeker’s allowance.

At age 18 offenders released from custody and community sentenced offenders have early entry to New Deal and access to specialist help via progress2work and Progress2work Link Up. Advisers regularly review activity and job search efforts and on a longer term basis, customers have to undertake mandatory activities such as New Deal for Young People. New Deal for young People has now been in operation for over 10 years and has helped thousands of young offenders to enter work and training.