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Learning and Skills Council Award First Offenders” Learning and Skills Service

Current prisoners and offenders who have been released into the community on license are due to benefit from improved educational facilities in Lancashire.

Last week the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) announced that Lancaster and Morecambe College has been successful in securing the £6million tender to provide the new Offenders” Learning and Skills Service in the county’s five prisons and one young offender’s institute.

The college, which has worked with the county’s prison authorities in two of the region’s institutions for over ten years, is now engaged in negotiations ahead of the launch of the new service in the coming weeks. The new contract will standardise education provision across the county’s six institutions and allow the college to implement the sharing of best educational practice across the region.

Steering offenders towards training and education is recognised as a vital tool in breaking the cycle of reoffending and the new Skills Service has the remit to ensure that offenders have access to learning and skills development to enable them to hold down a job, play a positive role in society and avoid the risk of reoffending upon release.

Creating an Integrated Programme

Executive director of the LSC in Lancashire, Steve Palmer said: “This new service will create an integrated programme of offender learning, which is essential, as very often offenders are unable to continue learning from custody back to community and gain the skills and education needed to break the cycle of re-offending.

“A number of high quality responses were received for the tender process, and we are confident that Lancaster and Morecambe College will be able to deliver a successful service from August.”

The country’s prison population suffer from very poor levels of literacy and numeracy with 50% of inmates screened on initial reception having reading skills at or below level 1 and an estimated 81% of offenders having considerable difficulty with writing. As such the curriculum offered by the college, as well as offering recognised traditional qualifications including GCSE and A-Level study, will focus upon the key literacy and numeracy skills which many in the prison system require if they are to stand a real chance of long term rehabilitation once they reach the end of their sentences and are released back into the community.

Driving Change

The government’s skills minister, Phil Hope, expressed confidence in the Offenders” Learning and Skills Service which selects lead education providers for institutions in each region of the country and is due to be rolled out nationally from August 2006: “This announcement represents a significant step towards a more coherent service from providers for the delivery of learning and skills for offenders.

“Our earlier introduction of a Head of Learning and Skills into each prison, together with the commitment shown by the network of existing providers over the last few years means that with the LSC also engaged in planning and funding of offender learning we are steadily driving the process of improvements forward.”

Michael Lloyd

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