From education to employment

Concern over reoffending as Lewisham College ditches Belmarsh prison education

Lewisham College is to abandon the prison education and training courses which it operates at Belmarsh and Brixton prisons.

The college took over the three year contract to run Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) from July 2006, but has given notice to the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), which oversees the OLASS programme, that it will terminate its contract from October.
The college claims that inadequate LSC funding makes it impossible for it to continue to manage the contract. Work for the Probation Service is also affected by this decision.
The University and College Union (UCU) represents all the teaching staff employed by Lewisham college in the two prisons. The union hopes that an alternative provider can swiftly be found to take up the contract and enable affected staff to continue their work.
Christiane Ohsan, UCU national official for offender educators said :
‘UCU is appalled that due to inadequate funding support from the LSC,  the college has had to pull out of this vital work after only two years, despite successful inspections which have confirmed the high standard of the teaching. This raises a big question mark over government claims to be committed to reducing reoffending.
‘Our members make an invaluable contribution to efforts to reduce reoffending, by equipping prisoners with the employability skills they will need when released. Continuity is essential but unfortunately the current funding dogma and contract changes disrupt this work.
‘Staff were transferred two years ago and now face the prospect of having three employers in the space of three years. This cannot help them to provide stability to their learners and it also wastes public funds.’

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