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Reoffending Rates

Volume 691: debated on Tuesday 16 March 2021

Probation, the police and other services are working together to address the drivers of reoffending, to cut crime and keep our neighbourhoods safe. We recently announced a £70 million investment in accommodation and rehabilitative support for prison leavers to reduce reoffending—part of a £220 million Government plan to cut crime and protect the public. I am pleased to say that, hopefully tomorrow morning, I will lay legislation to impose GPS tracking on offenders who have committed burglary and theft offences, who often have the highest rates of reoffending.

What happens immediately upon release is fundamental. What progress has been made on ensuring that prison leavers have access to benefits and accommodation and can get on the road towards sustainable employment?

With his usual wisdom, my right hon. Friend has put his finger on two of the three pillars of success after prison—a job, a house and a friend—and we are working hard to ensure that all those released from prison have exactly that. The majority of the £70 million investment that I referred to is being focused on providing accommodation for prison leavers. We are working closely with the New Futures Network, a specialist part of the Prison and Probation Service that brokers partnerships with employers to ensure that ex-offenders have access to jobs, which is critical to their success. There is lots of work being done at the moment and lots more to do, and I welcome his concern in this area.

I thank the Minister for his reply. The Farmer review in 2017 concluded that family is the golden thread in reducing offending rates. It cited evidence including a 39% reduction in reoffending among those who had maintained family contact during incarceration. Does he agree that such effective measures should be at the heart of any effective strategy to reduce reoffending, and will he commit to refreshing the data to ensure that the best available evidence is informing the Government’s approach?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that maintaining strong family links has a significant impact on the likelihood of reoffending for people who have been in the secure estate. We are committed to trying to retain those links as much as we possibly can both to families and to the communities from which offenders are drawn. We have made good progress on the Farmer review in embedding that as part of our work, and we will be looking at innovative approaches to offender management in the future.

My hon. Friend may be interested to know that, any minute now, we will be rolling out sobriety tagging in the rest of England; it is already operational in Wales. The critical thing about this disposal is that it does not mean that somebody goes to prison. Nevertheless, it does mean that their offending is managed in a way that we know now sees enormous compliance—90% compliance. This means, critically, that they can maintain their job and maintain their connections with the family in the community, and that is the kind of innovative approach that we want to look at in the future.

I thank my hon. Friend for his previous answer. What are those innovative approaches, and how are he and his Department bringing them to the reducing offending challenge?

It is no surprise that my hon. Friend, with his background and interest in science and technology, can see the potential for the use of technology in particular for managing offenders. As I say, alongside our sobriety tagging programme, we are going to be rolling out GPS tagging for those convicted of acquisitive crimes—burglary, robbery and theft—so that when they are released on licence, we can put a tag on their ankle meaning that, 24 hours a day for up to a year, they will know that we know where they are. We think that will be an enormous deterrent to reoffending and in particular, if there is any offending, it will allow the police to make much swifter detection. It is all part of our plan to revolutionise the management of offenders in the future, and I would welcome my hon. Friend’s ongoing interest and input.

What is my hon. Friend doing to help the young people of Wolverhampton who have previously offended to turn their lives around and build a better, brighter future?

My hon. Friend is a strong voice for Wolverhampton and in particular for the young people of that town. I know that he will commend the brilliant work of probation, police and other partners in Wolverhampton to support young people to, as he says, turn their backs on crime. There is a very proactive community safety partnership in the area, which is committed to making those communities safer. We have been putting pressure on the local services to make sure that they are focused particularly on driving down violence in the town and turning people away from crime. There is fantastic intervention in Wolverhampton, as I say, and I know he will be very supportive of it in the future.

Four years on from my landmark Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, which required prison governors to ensure that ex-offenders had secure accommodation on leaving prison, we are still letting people go from prison with £46 in their pockets, two bags of clothes, no accommodation to go to and no job. I welcome the money the Minister is providing for new accommodation, but what action is he taking to make sure that prison governors carry out their statutory duty to ensure that ex-offenders are started off, on leaving prison, in the right way?

My hon. Friend has done fantastic work over the last few years on the issue of homelessness, and it is to his great credit that he has focused on this particular cohort. As he knows, I hope, we are spending £50 million to expand our approved premises, providing temporary accommodation for prison leavers at risk of homelessness and ensuring that there is a proper rehabilitative approach to reintroducing them into society. However, he makes a good challenge on prison governors, and I will go away and make sure that we are seeing maximum compliance in the way that he intends.

Some 20% of sex offenders already have a previous conviction for sexual assault. The latest figures show that, in the last year, 37 convicted rapists already have convictions for the same crime and 14 have been convicted for rape three times previously. When will protecting women drive policy? The Minister cannot say it is now—just look at the numbers.

The protection of women is at the forefront of much of the work we do. The hon. Gentleman will know that the Bill, which I gather he is going to oppose tonight, contains a number of measures that would help us in that fight, not least the serious violence duty, which will bring all partners in an area together to diagnose the problems related to violence in that area and promote a strategy to address it. I am surprised that he raised those particular points, given that the Bill currently going through the House contains the notion of longer sentences for those convicted of serious sexual offences. We think that that will be an enormous deterrent for those who are thinking about offending, and such measures will protect women in the future.