Reoffending costs society around £15 billion a year. We must support people’s rehabilitation through education and employment opportunities, both when serving their sentence and after. We launched the education and employment strategy in May, and our reforms will empower governors to commission bespoke, innovative education provision that meets the needs of their prisoners and links to employment opportunities on release. Our reforms will also engage and persuade employers to take on ex-prisoners via the New Futures Network. We have consulted governors and employers on proposals to increase the use of release on temporary licence to enhance employment opportunities.
May I press the Secretary of State on the release on temporary licence scheme? What are the measures of success? How useful has it been in getting prisoners out of prison and into full-time employment on an ongoing basis?
It is useful, but I want us to do more of it. The education and employment strategy seeks to expand the use of workplace release on temporary licence— ROTL—to get prisoners who have earned it and who have been properly risk assessed out of their cells and into real workplaces. That will enable prisoners to build trust and prove themselves with an employer. If people do ROTL, they are more likely to be employed, and if they are employed, they are less likely to reoffend.
I thank the Secretary of State for his response. Of the 4,221 prisoners who reoffended in Northern Ireland, over two fifths, 43.6%, reoffended within the first three months. Will the Minister outline whether any initiatives are specifically aimed at providing guidance in those all-important first three months?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. Whether through the probation service, through charities or in prisons, we need to ensure that offenders get support when they are released. A lot of that work can be done within prison, which is why the education and employment strategy is so important. We want people to be geared up to go into employment when they are released, because if they are employed, they are less likely to offend.
I warmly welcome attempts to improve the employability of those in custody, but that will work only if the training relates to jobs that individuals want and for which there is a need in society. What steps are being taken to ensure that the resources are properly targeted at what will work best?
My hon. Friend is right. Returning again to the education and employment strategy, our emphasis is on ensuring that training is focused on what will help people into work, and we are giving governors greater control and discretion to ensure that they are well placed to do that.
The female offender strategy, which I outlined a couple of weeks ago, has by and large had a positive response, and our focus on residential centres has been warmly welcomed. Of course, there are those who are calling for us to go further, and we will continue to listen and engage, but the direction in which we are going has widespread support and fully recognises the hon. Lady’s important point that we need to address complex needs.
Data has highlighted that two thirds of young offenders have speech, language and communication problems. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, with joint working across the Department for Education, the Department of Health and Social Care and the justice system to bring forward programmes that will tackle the issue from birth, such as parental training, more health visitors and better advice, we could actually prevent many young people from ever getting into the criminal justice system?
My hon. Friend raises several important points, and I will try to address one or two of them. On the need for us to work across Government, many issues are not just for the Ministry of Justice, but for the likes of the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Education. It is also the case that we want to work upstream, because if we can address the complex problems that exist, we can stop people committing crimes in the first place.
Effective employment via the Through the Gate programme depends on effective community rehabilitation companies, which the Select Committee on Justice recently described as “wholly inadequate.” What plans does the Secretary of State have to fix community rehabilitation companies in Through the Gate?
The right hon. Gentleman is correct to say that the Through the Gate service needs to improve, and we are engaging with CRCs on that issue. We recognise it does not meet the standards we require, and it is important that we engage. We have been clear with the CRCs that they need to improve their performance, and we are in commercial negotiation with providers to secure the quality of services, including Through the Gate services, that we need.