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Offenders: Help to Find Employment

Volume 644: debated on Tuesday 10 July 2018

The education and employment strategy will set each prisoner on a path to employment from the outset. Through work, people can turn their backs on crime. Good behaviour and hard work will be rewarded with opportunity. Since the strategy’s publication, more than 30 new organisations have registered an interest in working with offenders. Nine Government Departments are signed up to the Going Forward into Employment pilot to hire ex-offenders in the civil service, and the first cohort of offenders is already in post.

I thank my right hon. Friend’s Department for the interest it has already shown in a project to enable serving prisoners to undertake the theoretical exams required for a career in the haulage industry, which is currently very short of workers. As a result of the meetings I have had with the Department, a pilot project is taking place in south Wales. I thank Ministers for that and ask that they continue to show interest in the project.

I thank my hon. Friend for his point. It is an example of where I hope that my Department and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service can work with employers to ensure that we help get more people into work, which is good for the individual offenders, good for the employers and society benefits as a whole because it contributes to reducing reoffending.

The Justice Secretary will know that there is no women’s prison in Wales and I am not advocating that there should be one. However, that will mean that there are considerable issues of geography for some women who do commit offences, so can he set out how he is able to support women who do offend, who live in Wales and who wish to relocate there in order to find employment in communities that they know and in which they have often grown up?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I point him in the direction of the female offender strategy, which we published a couple of weeks ago. One point that we argue in that is that, in many cases, custodial sentences are not the right approach, particularly for female offenders who, disproportionately, are sentenced to short sentences that disrupt their lives and do little to help them rehabilitate. If we can do more about helping in the community and, for example, making use of residential centres, we can help ensure that more female offenders get into work.

Eighteen months ago, a constituent of mine who had left prison just before Christmas and been through perfunctory training and employment introductions found himself out of prison and living on the street within 36 hours. Before the new year came round, he had committed another offence and been given another 12 months in prison. Will the Secretary of State commit to making sure that packages that are aimed at getting prisoners into work after prison actually work and are not perfunctory and that, from the day a person enters the criminal justice system, they are trained to live a fruitful life once they leave it?

I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman’s point. He highlights an example—a sad example, but not, I accept, the only one—where people, too quickly, go out of prison and commit a crime and are then set in a cycle of offending and reoffending. The system is not working for them or for society. The purpose of the education and employment strategy, which is implicit in his question, is an important point, and we must ensure that we implement it successfully. The purpose of that is to address this very issue.

Some of the people who are disproportionately represented inside the prison system are ex-servicemen. What plans does the Secretary of State have to bring charities such as Care after Combat into the prisons to help to ensure that reoffending does not take place and that these people who are heroes one day are not villains the next?

My right hon. Friend raises an important point. It is important for all offenders that we address this issue, but there is a particular point about ex-service people. He is right to highlight the very strong charitable sector in this area. I am determined to ensure that we continue to engage with those charities to provide people with the support they need, making sure in particular, in the context of his question, that those who have served this country are not disadvantaged.

Reducing reoffending rates is crucial. What information are the Minister and the Government providing in wider society to point out the benefits of a reduction in reoffending rates not just for prisoners, but for the wider society?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I have just delivered a speech making that very point, so I am doing my little bit that way. That is a message that we need to be getting across. How do we reduce reoffending? We must rehabilitate and we must help people into employment.