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Ex-offenders: Employment

Volume 741: debated on Tuesday 21 November 2023

I am pleased to say that the proportion of prison leavers in employment six months after their release has more than doubled in the two years to March 2023. We have delivered significant reforms in this area, among which are prison employment leads to match prisoners to jobs on release, and business-led employment advisory boards that partner prisoners with industry to benefit from their expertise. While this is very significant progress, there is always more to do, and we are determined to continue to see that figure climb higher.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. We know that ex-offenders are at high risk of homelessness, particularly immediately on release. We also know that being in work significantly reduces that risk, so the link between the probation service and Jobcentre Plus in supporting ex-offenders into work is of critical importance. Will the Minister do everything possible across Government to ensure that ex-offenders leave custody with the best possible chance of getting a job?

May I take this opportunity to pay tribute to my predecessor as prisons and probation Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds), for his work in this space?

My hon. Friend, as always, is absolutely spot-on that securing employment and preventing homelessness are essential to tackling reoffending. Those in work are nearly 10% less likely to reoffend. We work closely with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that prison leavers have effective support to prepare for employment on release. For example, prisoners can meet a DWP prison work coach from 12 weeks before release to provide advice on benefits and employment, including day one access to DWP employment programmes, and we continue to foster those strong links.

I thank the Minister for his response. Veterans very often fall on hard times, find themselves in prison and then become ex-offenders. Has the Minister had any opportunity to work alongside the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs to ensure that priority can be given to help veterans get over the bad times and to re-engage in society again? They have offered so much during their time in the services, and they can do so again if given the opportunity.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is absolutely right to highlight just how much veterans, even when they have got themselves into bother, can offer the community through rehabilitation and through work. Although I have not yet had the opportunity to engage with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, I intend to do so. A whole range of opportunities can work for veterans. Just this weekend, I saw the ex-jockey Ryan Hatch on ITV Racing talking about his work highlighting equine job opportunities—which are often appropriate for veterans—in prisons. I look forward to working with my right hon. Friend—and, indeed, with the hon. Gentleman, if he wishes—on this issue.