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Rehabilitation of Offenders

Volume 555: debated on Tuesday 18 December 2012

6. What steps he is taking to reform the rehabilitation of offenders by supporting people leaving prison who have served less than 12 months. (133871)

It might be helpful if I put the right hon. Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan) and other Opposition Members out of their misery and told them exactly what we are planning to do. As the House knows, I intend to apply payment by results to the majority of rehabilitation work conducted with offenders in the community. This rehabilitation revolution will stimulate innovation and open the delivery of services to a wider range of providers with the skills needed to change an individual’s behaviour and reduce offending in future. I aim to extend those services to cover those sentenced to less than 12 months in prison. I intend to hold a series of initial discussions with stakeholder groups tomorrow and to publish early in the new year a detailed consultation paper that will serve as both a response to the previous consultation paper and a direction for our reforms.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that response. How will he work with local authorities, social housing providers and other partners to ensure that suitable housing is available for ex-offenders?

One of the things that I believe are very important as we build a system of mentoring for former offenders is that there should be someone working alongside them to ensure that they have somewhere to live when they leave prison. Of course, the Department has worked closely with the Department for Communities and Local Government to address homelessness with a strategy that contains a number of measures to help ensure suitable accommodation for offenders, such as flexibility in the universal credit system so that short-sentence offenders do not lose their tenancies when they spend a short time in prison.

I welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement that prisoners should be met at the gates by mentors—I am not sure whether he is volunteering to be one of them. Some 35% of prisoners have a drugs problem. Has he seen the latest Home Affairs Committee report, which suggests that prisoners should be compulsorily tested on exiting prison so that they can be given the support they need in the community as he has so rightly recommended?

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman’s sentiment with regard to drugs, prisons and when offenders move back into the community. I have spoken to prison officers who are deeply frustrated by the fact that treatment begins in prison but then stops at the prison gate. I can assure him that one of the things we are working on is ensuring that the conditionality we introduced to surround our rehabilitation revolution will mean that treatment flows through the prison gate and continues after the prisoner has been released.

Can I ask the Secretary of State specifically about what he and his Department are doing to support former members of the armed forces who are in prison? I am thinking particularly of those who have served on operations. How is the Department helping them with rehabilitation and making sure that support mechanisms are in place so that they can get on with their lives and do not reoffend?

I regard it as a national shame that so many former members of our armed forces are in our prisons. I have discussions with the Minister with responsibility for veterans issues, my right hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois). I see the issue as something that we need to take forward in the next few months. It is certainly sitting high in my in-tray as a priority for us all.