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Prison Education and Employment

Volume 641: debated on Thursday 24 May 2018

Today, the Government are launching the Education and Employment Strategy for adult prisoners. It builds on the ambitions of the November 2016 White Paper “Prison Safety and Reform”.

Work has the power to change people’s lives, especially those of ex-prisoners. A prison sentence rightly serves as a punishment, depriving someone of their liberty. However, for those offenders who want to turn their backs on crime, prison should also be a catalyst for change. The vision at the heart of this strategy is that when an offender enters prison they should be put, immediately, on the path to employment on release.

We know that people with criminal convictions face significant barriers on release from prison, with access to employment and education being at the forefront. Not only are many ex-prisoners often unprepared for employment on release in terms of their skills and training, there remains a stigma among some employers about hiring people with a criminal conviction. With reoffending costing the UK billions each year, this strategy sets out to help break down the barriers and prejudices offenders often face in trying to secure employment.

Our reforms to prison education will give governors the tools they need to tailor provision to the requirements of employers and the needs of their prisoner populations. This approach builds on the commitments we made in the White Paper “Prison Safety and Reform”, putting into practice the key principles of governor empowerment and accountability that underpinned the recommendations in Dame Sally Coates’ seminal review. Governors will control their education budget, will decide what curriculum is most appropriate for their learner population, how it is organised and, crucially, who delivers it. These are far-reaching changes that governors themselves demand.

It is essential that prisoners develop their skills and gather experience through work during custodial sentences. Prison jobs are a key part of this, as is release on temporary licence (ROTL), which enables prisoners to undertake work in real workplaces. Evidence published today underlines the link between increased use of ROTL and reduced reoffending and we are also today consulting those who make ROTL decisions and those who provide ROTL placements on how to get more risk-assessed prisoners out of their cells and into real workplaces.

For offenders who play by the rules, we want to use incentives like workplace ROTL to encourage continued good behaviour and help support a turn away from violence and disorder in our prisons. We will develop a new operational policy framework that will allow prison governors to better tailor their ROTL regime to the circumstances of each offender and the opportunities available.

The strategy also sets a range of commitments to boost employment for prisoners once they are released. These include:

The New Futures Network (NFN) will engage and persuade employers to take on ex-prisoners, with experts placed in every geographical prison group in a phased roll-out across England and Wales.

The civil service will recruit ex-prisoners, providing jobs and acting as a role model for other employers.

The DWP and Ministry of Justice will work together to explore new ways to deliver enhancements to the current benefit claim service, so that prison leavers have immediate easier access to financial support on the day of release.