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Volume 565: debated on Tuesday 2 July 2013

Under our “Transforming Rehabilitation” reforms, every offender released from custody, including those sentenced to less than 12 months in custody, will receive statutory supervision and rehabilitation in the community. We are also putting in place an unprecedented nationwide through-the-prison-gate resettlement service, whereby most offenders are given continuous support by one provider from custody into the community.

The Minister has already referred to the number of offenders who reoffend within 12 months, and we know that prisoners are spending an awful lot of time banged up in their cells, when what many of them really need is education, because all too many failed in or were failed by the education system before embarking on a life of criminal activity. Will the Minister undertake to ensure that more time in prison is devoted to prisoners’ education, so that they are better prepared for life outside and for employment?

The hon. Gentleman is right: education is extremely important, especially for offenders who have very low levels of educational attainment before going into custody, of whom there are many. We are working on that. More prisoners are now doing education courses—more this year than last year. Of course, it is also important that prisoners go to work while they are in custody, and more hours were worked last year than the year before. I hope very much that that trend will continue.

Just last week, I met the Prisoners’ Education Trust and was told that much prison work is low skilled and does not in any way improve employability on release. What will Ministers do to ensure that prison work increases people’s qualifications, improves their CVs and gives them a genuinely better chance of taking up work following release from custody?

The hon. Lady will understand that there are restrictions on the types of work that can be offered in a custodial environment, but there are jobs that will contribute to prisoners’ qualifications and experience. However, there is a wider point, which is that, for a great many prisoners, who simply have no experience of the world of work, the softer skills they need to be employable—working in a team, getting up in the morning and going to work for a full day—are valuable, too, and we will seek to extend those skills as far as we can.