From education to employment

Forum on Prisoner Education (FPE) Gives Green Paper Cautious Welcome

The latest green paper from the Government on providing offenders with skills training for work has received a tentative welcome from the Forum on Prisoner Education (FPE).

The FPE has long campaigned for improving the lot of offenders in the skills environment, as statistics have clearly demonstrated that the rate of re ““ offending can be dramatically reduced if better skills and education opportunities can be provided within institutions. The Forum on Prisoner Education works to improve education for offenders both in custody and in the community, and is a registered charity.

The Paper

The paper is entitled “Reducing Reoffending through Skills and Employment”, and marks the cooperation of the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), the Home Office and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). It is hoped by the Government that this paper will serve to illustrate their commitment to continuing to improve education for offenders.

There are four central themes of the paper. The first of these is encouraging a system to be established that supports securing employment for ex-offenders. This is tied in with ensuring a better level of skills delivery in the criminal justice system, which can be best brought to pass by “joining up” of criminal justice agencies, and the engagement of offenders in skills and employment.

Cautious Welcome from FPE

Steve Taylor, the Director of the FPE, spoke of the document in cautiously optimistic tones. Speaking after meeting with the Minister for Skills, Phil Hope MP, Mr. Taylor said: “We”re very pleased to see the Government demonstrating its commitment to improving the education of those people in our criminal justice system by publishing this Green Paper.”

However, this does not mark the end of the war but merely the beginning of the battle for the FPE. Ex ““ offenders often find they have a difficult time when facing employers often sceptical of the veracity of their reformation. He remarked: “But the Government mustnt underestimate the mountain they will have to climb to get employers on board and willing to give jobs to ex-offenders.”

He also commented on the lack of legislative change that the FPE believe will be crucial for changing the face of offender education, pointing out: “Given that the Home Office are in on this Paper, its a crying shame that they havent decided to legislate to amend the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, which continues to put barriers in front of ex-offenders seeking work.”

Mr. Taylor is also very concerned that too much weight is being given to specific areas of the employment market in offender skills training. He said: “It”d be rather insulting of Government to suggest that all prisoners will want to be builders or painters and decorators. A large number of prisoners will want to study more academic – rather than vocational – qualifications, often through distance learning. Higher education must not be lost in this process.”

Jethro Marsh

Is this far enough, or just one very small step forward? Tell us in the FE Blog

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