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Prisoner Literacy

Volume 715: debated on Tuesday 24 May 2022

If we can improve prisoners’ literacy and numeracy skills, we will increase their ability to get jobs when they are released, which, in turn, will cut crime and make our streets safer. That is why we have set our plans to achieve exactly that in the prisons strategy White Paper. We have already introduced measures of progress in English and maths to hold governors to account, and we will be establishing an innovation scheme to deliver new initiatives to improve the reading and writing of prisoners.

I welcome what the Minister has said on improving literacy among prisoners and what the Secretary of State said in answer to the previous question. May I just strengthen the point about governor accountability? Training in prisons is currently accountable through Ofsted and the training provider is held accountable. Until governors themselves are fully accountable for the literacy of prisoners as they leave, tied of course with the need to get prisoners into work, on which there has been excellent progress, it will always be harder than it should be to get the reading training needed, especially for those who are dyslexic.

My right hon. Friend is completely right. We are putting in place a new deal for governors based on clear expectations and accountability, giving them greater autonomy over education provision in their establishments, which includes transparent key performance indicators, outcome measures and targets, including on prisoner literacy. Indeed, in Highpoint Prison in his constituency, there is a prisoner who was completely illiterate on entering prison. He had the ambition to read to his young child and is now three chapters into a book. With that sort of personal determination and encouragement from the Prison Service, we have high hopes for the chances of prisoners when they leave prison and keeping our communities safer.

Diolch yn fawr, Lefarydd. Education and literacy highlight the inconsistency between what is devolved and what is reserved in relation to justice in Wales. Does the Minister therefore welcome Welsh Government’s proposals, published today, to further the devolution of justice in Wales, and will she commit to work with Welsh Government to further those proposals?

I like working with the Welsh Government; that may come as a surprise to some, but I have found them incredibly helpful on plans such as the residential women’s centre, which I launched the plans for only last week. We will see a residential women’s centre set up in Swansea to help vulnerable women who are on the cusp of custody, giving them 12 weeks’ residential accommodation and courses to try to steer them away from offending. I believe that, by working together we can come up with some really interesting and innovative ideas to help not just the good people of Wales, but the entire United Kingdom.