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Prisoners: Access To Education Facilities

Volume 572: debated on Tuesday 7 May 1996

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they intend to reduce prisoners' access to education facilities and, if so, whether they will state the reasons for this change.

Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Lester of Herne Hill from the Director of Security and Programmes of the Prison Service, dated May 1996.

Lady Blatch has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent Question about prisoners' access to education facilities.

The Prison Service is committed to ensuring that prisoners who are likely to benefit from access to appropriate educational facilities should have opportunities to do so. However control of public expenditure is fundamental to government policy and the Government are seeking efficiency improvements and economies throughout the public sector, from which the Prison Service is not exempt.

Governors have been asked to reduce their overall cost per prisoner place by 9.5 per cent. over the next three years. The Prisons Board has issued guidance on cost reductions which makes it clear that the emphasis should be on securing greater efficiency, with reductions in regime activities such as education made as a last resort. The guidance also states that priority should be given to safeguarding activities which contribute to security and control; are constructive and purposeful; offer good value for money; and help prisoners tackle their offending behaviour.

In making decisions about their education programme, governors will be guided by the recently issued National Core Curriculum document, which emphasises the importance of basic literacy and numeracy, English for speakers of other languages, information technology and social and life skills. They will also be taking account of courses which have few prisoners, are costly to run and which offer qualifications that do not have any clear use to prisoners in helping them lead law-abiding and useful lives after release.

While some prisons are likely to seek to reduce expenditure on education, others will expand their education provision.