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Prisoner Release: Employment

Volume 611: debated on Tuesday 14 June 2016

9. What progress his Department has made on ensuring that offenders find employment on release from prison. (905393)

One part of my job that most inspires me is meeting businesses and trade bodies to talk about the benefits of employing offenders on release. Following the Prime Minister’s announcement of changes to recruitment practices for the civil service, I am keen to encourage other employers to “ban the box” when recruiting too. This fits alongside our work to implement the recommendations of the Coates review and our announcement of six reform prisons.

I thank the Minister for his answer. The first Hampshire and Isle of Wight community rehabilitation company women’s centre opened in Havant in 2012, and part of its work involves helping to get women offenders into employment. Will the Minister join me in congratulating it on its work and will he support the continued employment of women offenders in the Havant area?

Yes, I am very pleased to be able to do exactly that. For that excellent centre to succeed, we need far more employers to step up to the plate and make a commitment to training and hiring ex-offenders.

21. Is the Minister aware that there have been some excellent examples of major companies taking on prisoners and training them while they are still in prison? I think in particular of British Gas, which had a wonderful programme in Reading jail. Are there partnerships that we are currently encouraging? (905405)

Yes. I can tell the hon. Gentleman, who I know takes a serious interest in these issues, that there is a lot to be encouraged about. I am going around the country talking to employers, often taking them into prisons. I am particularly keen on the academy model, where employers come into prisons and train prisoners there. The prisoners then go out on day release to gain work experience in that business, and as they leave the prison gate they do so with a contract of employment and can go into work. That helps to secure their accommodation and to get their lives back on an even keel.

18. One problem faced by ex-offenders is not having a secure home to go to once they are released from prison, and as a result they cannot get a job. What further steps can my hon. Friend take to ensure that people leaving prison are leaving for a secure home and can then seek proper employment? (905402)

My hon. Friend is right to draw the link between accommodation and employment. If more prisoners were able to pay a deposit of perhaps the first month’s rent on leaving prison, that would help. By the same token, if we can get more offers of employment to prisoners as they come out, they will find it easier to secure accommodation.

Between now and 2020 the European Union is investing over £9 billion in the UK on skills training and support for those at risk of social exclusion. One example is here in London at Brixton prison: the Bad Boys bakery project, which trains inmates to become bakers and find work when they are released. As the Justice Secretary believes in giving inmates a second chance and has talked about the importance of such schemes, will he use his loaf and encourage people to vote remain on 23 June?

Like the hon. Lady, I am a huge fan of schemes such as the Bad Boys bakery, which I have visited in Brixton. I can still remember the smell of the delicious lemon cake wafting out of the bakery when I visited it. More seriously, when we see the purpose and engagement of prisoners when they are given a real opportunity to do work in prison that offers the prospect of a job on release, they do engage, and we need to see a lot more of that.