Karin Smyth – 2016 Parliamentary Question to the Ministry of Justice

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Karin Smyth on 2016-05-18.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps he is taking to increase employment opportunities for people (a) on community sentences and (b) released from prison.

Andrew Selous

Prisons should be places of hard work, rigorous education and high ambition, with incentives for prisoners to learn and for prison staff to prioritise education and work. Dame Sally Coates’ review of education in prisons published on 18 May sets out a clear blueprint for reform of education, with Governors given the tools to ensure education provision meets the needs of their prisoners

Supporting offenders into meaningful employment is a vital aspect of the Government’s approach to rehabilitation. We already work with a wide range of employers in prison through One3One Solutions and engagement by prison Governors. We want Governors to do more and so we are putting the tools to drive this change in the hands of those at the frontline who best know what works. We are keen to increase the number of employers who can provide valuable vocational work for offenders while in prison and who are able to offer them support in preparation for release and employment opportunities following their release. I regularly meet businesses across the country including at a number of successful roadshows across the estate. New businesses are now coming on board as a consequence. The Employers Forum for Reducing Reoffending brings together employers willing to employ offenders and we are working with the Department for Work and Pensions to increase the involvement of more businesses. The Prime Minister has announced changes to recruitment practises across the civil service to ensure that people are considered on their merits and not on their criminal conviction and we want to encourage more employers to do the same.

Our reforms to probation services mean that virtually all those sentenced to less than 12 months now receive support both in custody and on release. Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) were created as part of these reforms and manage low to medium risk offenders, including those serving community sentences. CRCs have been given the flexibility to do what they think works to reduce reoffending, which should increase opportunities for offenders to turn their lives around.

Offenders serving community sentences can access services available in the community such as education and training courses; mental health provision and support to obtain employment and accommodation. Where an offender is subject to an unpaid work requirement, they have the opportunity to give back to their local community.