From education to employment

Right education provisions for community-based offenders a vision to reduce crime rate in the UK, says report

The right education provisions for community-based offenders could reduce the UK’s crime rate, according to a report recently released by the De Montfort University, Leicester, in collaboration with the City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development (CSD).

Education and training in prisons has been extensively researched in the past, but much less is understood about provision for offenders sentenced to community orders, especially its accessibility, quality and its effects, particularly from the service users’ perspective.

The report, ‘Outside Chances’, examines learning and skills service provision for offenders in the community and how these services are experienced by the users themselves.

The research also outlines the benefits to education beyond its link to employability and stopping criminal activity; benefits such as personal fulfillment or an offender wishing to contribute to their children’s learning.

The study is based on in depth interviews with 127 offenders in four Probation Trust Areas in England, with interviews of more than 30 professionals including offender managers, education providers and tutors.

In the year 2007-08, 53% of those serving a community sentence were assessed as having an ‘education, training and employability’ problem, with a staggering 48% having a reading age at or below the level expected of an 11 year old and 82% having a writing level at or below that expected of an 11 year old.

Set against this backdrop are the well documented poor levels of educational attainment among offenders and those under probation supervision.

Most importantly, at the heart of the report is an understanding that education be made one of the most important services accessible through a community order and ‘learning and skills provision in probation must reflect the user’s perspective’.

Recommendations put forward

The initial assessment of offenders’ educational needs is crucial. Offender managers should use assessment tools as guides and should focus on offender’s individual needs and aspirations.

Education providers and offender managers should work together to ensure offenders have access to the fullest range of opportunities possible.

A narrow criterion of measures of success could fail to recognize the wide range of benefits to the rehabilitating offender, to families and to society provided by education and training programmes. Considering the many gains of education programmes, different criteria and methods must be used to evaluate their effects.

Different offenders have different educational needs therefore programmes should be tailored to those needs and clearly communicate and benefit to the offender.

Along with helping offenders gain qualifications, Probation Trusts should also help offenders make the best use of their qualifications, particularly by ensuring strong links with practical employment advice services.

Aastha Gill

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