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Prison Release: Employment

Volume 737: debated on Tuesday 12 September 2023

We continue to develop opportunities for work and training, both during custody and on release. I am pleased to say that the proportion of prison leavers employed six months after release has increased markedly over the past two years.

What help can the Department give to aid the mobility of this potential workforce and get them to where they need to be?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. Going to where the job opportunities are is incredibly important; I would mention to her opportunities such as the Jobcentre Plus railcard through the Department for Work and Pensions. We also need to make sure that, at the point of release, prisoners are put in touch with opportunities near to where they live—where they are going to. Although we work with employers large and small, there is a particular value in working with multi-site firms that have locations in many different places.

There have been seven deaths in Wormwood Scrubs prison as a result of self-harm in the past three years. The first of the inquests into those deaths—that of Luke Clarke—was concluded only last month. It found that inadequate care, fear and confusion contributed to Luke’s death. What is the Ministry of Justice doing to prevent the unacceptable level of self-inflicted and avoidable deaths in prison and what is it doing to speed up the inquest process? I am still waiting for the meeting into the inquest process that I was promised on 27 June by the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer).

We were talking about employment on release, but what the hon. Gentleman raises is incredibly important. I have visited Wormwood Scrubs. Rates of self-harm are unacceptably high. They vary by place. In the women’s estate, we have a particular issue with self-harm. We are working closely with the national health service, which provides mental health support in prisons. I am absolutely determined that we bring down levels of self-harm.

Prison leavers in employment training are less likely to reoffend. That means that education and training for young offenders in prison is crucial. Will the Minister say why the Government have failed so far to implement a new prison education service? It was promised in their party’s manifesto in 2019. Implementing it in 2025 is too little, too late.

I join you, Mr Speaker, in welcoming the hon. Lady to her place and similarly look forward to working with her. I can bring her good news. First, there is an education service operating in every prison, with four contracted providers. We also have additional provision that governors can put in place, but for the new service that she mentions—it was indeed a manifesto commitment—the process is well under way. I look forward to being able to make further announcements before long.