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Prisoners (Rehabilitation)

Volume 523: debated on Tuesday 15 February 2011

5. What steps he is taking to ensure that prisoners gain the skills and experience required to find work after leaving prison. (40456)

With the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Ministry of Justice is undertaking a review of offender learning, which includes how best to provide learning that will improve prisoners’ employability. The Green Paper, “Breaking the Cycle: Effective Punishment, Rehabilitation and Sentencing of Offenders”, sets out our intention to make prisons places where many more prisoners work and gain employment experience.

I welcome the Government’s emphasis on rehabilitation. Up and down the country, including in Staffordshire, many organisations work very hard and very effectively—and cheaply—on that. Will the Minister agree to meet me and colleagues from Staffordshire to discuss how we can continue to support such organisations?

I will be delighted to meet my hon. Friend and colleagues from Staffordshire. Prisons and probation trusts already work with a large number of community organisations, but the Green Paper makes it clear that we want an ever-wider range of community organisations and individuals to become involved in helping ex-offenders to lead law-abiding lives. The system change that we are making, which I am happy to discuss with my hon. Friends, will enable the big society to help us to deliver a revolution in rehabilitation.

Does the Minister not understand that all his good intentions and fine words will be swamped by the massive spending cuts that his Department is taking? Closing three prisons and cutting the building programme will worsen overcrowding, and cutting 23%—some 10,000—of the front-line prison and probation staff will reduce the number of opportunities for prisoners to train and work. When will he come forward with a credible strategy?

We are about to come forward with a credible offender learning strategy. The budget will remain very much the same as that which we inherited, because we realise that that strategy is a priority. Unfortunately, a significant amount of the money spent under the previous Administration went to waste. If the hon. Lady reads the reports from independent monitoring boards, she will see repeated complaints about the quality of offender learning in prisons under the previous Administration. We will put that right.