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Reducing Reoffending Rates

Volume 649: debated on Tuesday 13 November 2018

Reducing reoffending is essentially about many things, but the three most important are making sure that someone has a job, that their addiction problems are addressed and that they have accommodation. We are addressing accommodation in Bristol, Pentonville and Leeds, through new wraparound support to help people into accommodation. We have a new education and employment strategy, and we are working with the NHS on addiction. It is possible to reduce reoffending but, as we learn internationally, it is never easy.

May I commend to the Minister the report of the all-party parliamentary group on mental health, ably led by its chair, the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately)? It focuses on the issue of mental health and the support required for people who have left prison. Will the Minister say more about the work he does with the Department of Health and Social Care and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to ensure that that support is available?

That is absolutely essential. More than half of our prisoners are currently presenting with mental health issues. When I shadowed a prison officer in Wormwood Scrubs last week, I had a long conversation with somebody who had attempted to kill themselves and had been hearing voices. That is not unusual. We have to work much more closely with the NHS. I am very pleased at the progress that the NHS is making, and I hope that future investment in the NHS and mental health will go directly into prisons.

The work being done by the Minister is very welcome, but will he also recollect that we need to start on preparation for release much earlier than the 12 or so weeks currently built into the contractual arrangements?

That is absolutely right. The key worker scheme that we are rolling out allows the prison officer to develop a relationship with an individual prisoner, to work with them on their sentence plan and education plan. One reason why it is so important is that it will help us to settle people into the community much earlier in their sentence.

Between April and December 2017, National Careers Service advisers aided almost 4,000 prisoners into employment or non-OLASS—offender learning and skills service—learning. How many prisoners have been referred to employment or education since the Government scrapped those advisers in March? The Minister has rightly said that this is important for rehabilitation.

First, I pay tribute to the work of the National Careers Service, but there are many other providers working within the prison estate. The New Futures Network, which we are now rolling out, is doing things that were not done by the National Careers Service, in particular bringing more employers into prison to develop those relationships. There is a great deal we could learn, but we believe the current system will deliver better results and our employment figures for prisoners are looking very promising.

The work of Care after Combat with veterans on rehabilitation is making a real difference and meets the needs of the Department of Health and Social Care, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Defence. Will the Minister congratulate Jim Davidson and his team on the remarkable work they are doing on this agenda, and help to take a lead across government to ensure that that wonderful charity can access the funding it needs to continue and expand this important work?

Care after Combat does terrific work. I was lucky enough to meet Jim Davidson and his team—indeed, I did so with a Defence Minister. The Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar), will meet Mr Davidson again shortly. It is a great example of the way a proper wraparound service that addresses mental health, accommodation and employment can really help to prevent reoffending.