From education to employment

Government change legislation to allow prisoners to take up apprenticeships following Committee recommendation

Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee

The Government has accepted recommendations to include prisoners in apprenticeships and provide better data and support for SEND prisoners.

In March, cross-party MPs warned that the ‘chaotic’ adult prison education system was crying out for overhaul. The Education Select Committee’s Report,  Not just another brick in the wall: why prisoners need an education to climb the ladder of opportunity, called on the Government to allow prisoners to study for apprenticeships, a key route to employment and rehabilitation. It also urged the Government to better assess individual prisoners’ educational capabilities and needs and to place learning at the heart of prisons.

Today, the Committee publishes the Government’s response to its Report. The Government has taken many of the Committee’s recommendations on board. The Committee welcomes the decision, spearheaded by the then Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, to change legislation to allow prisoners to take up apprenticeships. The Government has also accepted the Committee’s calls for prisons to better capture data on the levels of learning disabilities in prisons and has pledged to install one support manager for prisoners with additional learning needs in every prison by 2024.

Despite these areas of agreement, there are some recommendations which have not been fully addressed. These include the Committee’s calls for the Government set out a date at which all prisons will have broadband access and to ensure that prisons scrap the rule preventing offenders from receiving a student loan if they are more than six years from release.

Chair of the Education Select Committee, Robert Halfon MP, said:

“I welcome the Government’s positive response to our report. One of our key recommendations was that prisoners should be given the chance to take up apprenticeships. Ex-prisoners who find employment are statistically less likely to offend. Giving offenders a route back into work is the best way to reintegrate and reinvest them in society. I am grateful to the Government for taking this step.

“It is also encouraging to see the Government finally grapple with the disastrously overlooked issue of prisoners with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Over 30% of prisoners face learning challenges, but this is likely to be a gross underestimate because of poor assessments. The Government’s commitment to improve SEND data and introduce a support manager in every prison will allow prisoners to fully access the rehabilitating education they need.

“However, some opportunities for reform have been missed. Without sufficient loans, equal pay for education as work, and full broadband, prisoners may be cut off or disincentivized from education. Prison education is proven to help offenders get out of prison for good. The Government has everything to gain by following through with these measures, support people back into work, and reduce the cost to the Treasury of re-offending rates.”

Kirstie Donnelly MBE, CEO at City & Guilds said:

“We are delighted that the Government have listened to our calls to allow prisoners to access apprenticeships whilst serving their sentences. Training prisoners to be ready for the workplace upon their release will be key to developing talent, reducing reoffending rates and providing opportunities for those facing barriers.

“Diverting people away from crime could put £500 million a year back into the economy by lowering reoffending rates, not to mention the huge economic boost of unlocking the skills potential of the UK’s prison population and filling stubborn skills gaps. City & Guilds research shows that prisoners who receive formal skills training in prison improve employment prospects on release from 50% to 89%. With 75,000 prisoners released each year, improving skills is key to both keeping ex-offenders out of prison and enabling them to make a valuable contribution to the community.”

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