The government has pledged to put prisoners at the centre of learning citing employability as a major tenet of its offender skills policy.
Skills Minister Phil Hope MP last week addressed delegates at a Neil Stewarts Associates conference, pushing for a more learner focused prison curriculum to help slash re-offending rates and to ensure prisoners have employable skills upon release.
He said: “Over half of released prisoners will be convicted again within two years; costing the taxpayer around £65,000 for each reconviction ““the wider cost to society is estimated at £11 billion per year. It is not enough to provide services for skills training if the offender is not interested in taking them up. Just as we are doing with our Further Education and skills reforms, we need to put the learner at the centre of what we do and work closely with employers to do it”.
The quality of provision had increased on the year, with over 80% of prisons having “adequate” or better learning and skills provision, compared with less than half last year.
“To motivate offenders to learn we need more, and more realistic, opportunities for employment when they get out. And we must have much greater input from employers to influence the skills programmes we offer”.
“And, building on practice in the US, the National Employment Panel’s “Job Developers” will act as brokers, matching up organisations that train offenders to employers with recruitment difficulties or skills shortages”.
Citing an earlier speech made by the Home Secretary, Mr Hope added: “We need to embrace the vision of offender management outlined by John Reid in his speech earlier this month at Wormwood Scrubs. He said “one of the key aims of the reforms”¦ is to provide every offender with a seamless and individual package of supervision and support from the start of their sentence to the end, overseen by a single offender manager working off a single case record shared with everyone else in the system””.
Underlining his philosophy in creating a realistic learning environment, he conceded a major challenge was to present employment opportunities “in a way that makes sense to them”, adding: “Where we can we want to explore ways to make the prison timetable move nearer to a normal working day”.
“It’s also important that we also have a coherent approach from the “supply-side”, from all the local agencies that are involved in progressing an offender through the system. Organising services around the client, whoever they may be, increases their motivation to use them and improves the final outcome”.
“Government does not have all the answers and we have no magic wand. But we are creating a framework within which good ideas and innovative approaches can flourish. Working in partnership with service providers, with employers, with you, we can make sure the system works as well as it can. That it really gives offenders every chance of embracing learning and skills as a path to a new and better life; to reduce re-offending for the sake of the offender and, most importantly, for the whole of society”.
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