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Volume 535: debated on Tuesday 8 November 2011

Based on a survey of nearly 1,500 adult prisoners, we found a number of factors associated with reoffending on release: negative childhood experiences; poor educational backgrounds; low employment prospects; and poor health prospects, including drug usage. Research has also shown that criminal history, age and gender are strong predictors of future reoffending.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Almost half of all serving prisoners have very basic literacy and numeracy skills. What steps is he taking to transform the literacy training that offenders receive in prison?

I agree with my hon. Friend about the problem. The majority of prisoners do not have the necessary reading and writing skills to do most jobs in the labour market on release. That is why assessing literacy and numeracy skills is a priority in prisons and why those with a need are offered classroom-based courses and individualised support, but there is also a role for the third sector, with organisations such as Toe By Toe providing mentoring for prisoners and by prisoners to help them learn reading skills.

The Minister has not mentioned young people, and high numbers of them continue to reoffend. What strategy is in place to give them guidance and support so that they do not reoffend when they come out of prison or young offenders institutions?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that reoffending rates by younger people are particularly high and that that is where we need to focus attention. The guidance he mentions is particularly effective when it comes in the form of mentoring, which can be provided by third sector organisations, and we have seen some very effective examples of that. It is a question not only of statutory supervision and support, but of what others can bring.

May I urge the Minister to take an even closer look at the voluntary sector’s work in that area, especially the charity KeepOut, which I have recently become aware of? It is a crime diversion scheme delivered by teams of serving prisoners that aims to steer young people away from the conveyor belt to a criminal life and represents a positive step for many prisoners on their rehabilitation journey.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing attention to the work of organisations such as KeepOut that provide exactly the type of mentoring service I was talking about, helping those who are or have been prisoners to dissuade young offenders from pursuing a life of crime.

I have listened to the Minister’s answers. We were promised a rehabilitation revolution, but unfortunately the chief inspector of prisons can find no evidence of it. In the interests of looking at outcomes, can the Minister let us know when we can expect to see this decline in reoffending and by exactly how much it will decline?

I think that the whole House agrees that reoffending rates are too high. They have been persistently high, and we need to tackle that issue. That is why the rehabilitation revolution is important, and I am sorry that the hon. Lady does not appear to support it. We have particular proposals on payment by results, and we are now seeing them extended throughout public sector and private sector prisons, where we will ensure that we pay for what works and incentivise providers to reduce reoffending. We are determined to reduce reoffending by using innovative means, not the familiar means that Labour always proposes, which involve simply spending more public money.