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Volume 485: debated on Tuesday 16 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland with reference to the answer of 13 November 2008, Official Report, column 1321W, on reoffenders, what steps he is taking to reduce reoffending rates. (243439)

Under the Northern Ireland Office's PSA target of Making Communities Safer, the Department is committed to reduce re-offending in Northern Ireland. While much is being done to address re-offending across the criminal justice system, a cross-government strategic approach is essential to making significant inroads into level of re-offending. To achieve this joined-up approach:

An Inter-Ministerial Group is being established—the NIO has secured agreement from OFMDFM to the establishment of a Ministerial Group on Reducing Offending to promote a cross departmental approach and ensure that a coherent, coordinated strategy is adopted to all aspects of offending;

A women offenders strategy is under development—a specific approach to women offenders is being progressed through a women’s strategy. As part of this initiative, a pilot women’s centre has been established to develop appropriate assessment tools and programmes focused on sustaining and supporting women offenders in the community;

Offenders learning and skills deficits are being addressed—the MO, in partnership with the Departments of Education and Employment and Learning, is establishing a Learning and Skills Forum. The forum will focus on making better use of existing education and skills training to provide a more joined up service for existing offenders and young people at risk of offending.