Accommodation is the foundation of preventing reoffending. Currently around 30% of people leave prison without a stable home to go to, and that is why my right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary has made employment on release and accommodation for offenders a key priority of our prison reform programme.
Given that the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 is now on the statute book, is the Minister aware that probation officers and ex-offenders can now register as associations of individuals under the Act? Will he meet me and the National Custom & Self Build Association’s right to build expert taskforce, so we can brief him on how people building their own dwellings can transform lives and reduce reoffending rates?
I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend to listen to whatever creative solutions he can bring to the long-standing problem of accommodation for offenders.
The joint report of the chief inspectors of prisons and probation looked at through-the-gate services and revealed that 10% of prisoners were homeless on their first night out of prison. Having a home is key to reducing reoffending, so what assessment has the Minister made of reoffending rates?
The hon. Lady makes a very important point. As I said in response to the previous question, this is a priority for us. We are looking at expanding bail accommodation and support services to include lower risk offenders, utilising spare MOJ capacity, expanding our approved premises programme, and working very closely with other Government Departments, such as the Department for Communities and Local Government, to solve this serious problem.
While strongly supporting the initiative of my hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr Bacon), will the prisons Minister tell the House which construction companies get this and actually offer fair opportunities to ex-offenders in the construction sector? Will he perhaps also tell us which companies need a bit of a nudge in this area?
My hon. Friend is pre-empting our employment strategy, which we will announce very soon. He will be aware of the New Futures Network, which the Justice Secretary announced at party conference. This will bring together employers and ex-offenders to help to create employment on release. The construction sector is a key sector and he will be hearing more from us in due course.
A 2015 Ministry of Justice study found that community orders have a substantially lower rate of reoffending than short prison sentences. What is the Minister doing to reverse the sharp fall in community sentences that has taken place under his Government?
Of course we want to reduce reoffending. The presumption in this country is against prison. It is up to the judiciary to sentence how they see fit. We want to make sure that there are appropriate interventions in the community and we are looking at that.