Offenders: Education and Employment

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th June 2018.

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Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East 12:00 am, 5th June 2018

What assessment he has made of the role of employment and education in reducing rates of reoffending.

Photo of Iain Stewart Iain Stewart Conservative, Milton Keynes South

What steps the Government are taking to improve access for offenders to education and employment.

Photo of Alan Mak Alan Mak Conservative, Havant

What assessment he has made of the role of employment and education in reducing rates of reoffending.

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

On 24 May, we launched the education and employment strategy to create a system in which each prisoner is set on a path to employment from the outset. This is vital because reoffending costs society around £15 billion each year. Effective rehabilitation needs prisoners to be willing to commit to change, take advice, learn new skills and take opportunities to work, and if they participate in learning and get a job, they are less likely to reoffend.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer, and for his earlier mention of my Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and the duty to ensure that ex-offenders get a decent house when they leave prison, which comes in in October. More widely, will he review education training and reward ex-offenders for participating in such programmes so that they do not reoffend when they leave prison?

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his work on the Homelessness Reduction Act, which was a significant achievement. In respect of making sure that the incentives in the system are right, my hon. Friend absolutely hits the nail on the head. I am determined to ensure that we have the right incentives in the system to reward good behaviour and to bring down reoffending.

Photo of Iain Stewart Iain Stewart Conservative, Milton Keynes South

Milton Keynes College is a leading provider of offender-learning programmes. I have discussed the New Futures Network with college staff, and while they welcome the Government’s new strategy, they and I would be grateful for further details of how employers will be incentivised, and perhaps even mandated, to employ a certain percentage of ex-offenders.

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

Our approach is to encourage employers to take on ex-offenders. Some employers do marvellous work and not only make a real contribution to society, but find that they get very good employees. There are also employers who, frankly, are not engaging at all. There has been a change in public mood on this issue and we want to encourage much more engagement. We all have a role to play.

Photo of Alan Mak Alan Mak Conservative, Havant

Digital and technology skills are now vital in every workplace. They help those released from prison to secure better jobs, thereby reducing reoffending. What support is my right hon. Friend’s Department giving for such important skills training?

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

My hon. Friend raises an important point. Information and communications technology forms part of the prison common core curriculum. It will be increasingly important, which is why it is right that we provide training in digital and technology skills. It is worth pointing out that from April 2019, governors will be given increased flexibility to commission the right education mix for their prisons. We expect that digital and technology will feature highly in governors’ plans.

Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Opposition Whip (Commons)

I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

Domestic violence offenders are particularly prone to repeat offending, so what commitment will the Secretary of State give to ensuring that the mandatory provision of domestic violence perpetrator programmes is made available to domestic violence offenders in all prisons through the domestic abuse Bill?

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising that point. She is absolutely right about the repeat-offending nature of domestic abuse. She will be aware of the Government’s consultation on domestic abuse, which concluded at the end of last month. We are looking at ways in which we can bring down reoffending, and getting the right courses and training in prisons, including on domestic abuse, is very important.

Photo of Gregory Campbell Gregory Campbell Shadow DUP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

Education is particularly important in trying to ensure that offenders not only do not reoffend, but get employment post-custody. What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that governors in all prisons right across the regime are aware that prisoners’ educational attainment is paramount if they are to find employment once they leave prison?

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. On the prisons for which we are responsible, I have set out the education and employment strategy, and the focus is on ensuring that governors have greater control over how they provide education within their prisons. His point about the link between education and employment is absolutely right. Of course, employment is linked very strongly to reoffending rates.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Chair, Finance Committee (Commons)

May I urge the Secretary of State to look at the correlation and causation between traumatic brain injury and reoffending? The most recent survey that has been done in the prison in Leeds showed that nearly 50% of prisoners had a traumatic brain injury, and that 30% of them had more than five. Does it not make sense to screen every single prisoner when they arrive in prison and ensure that they have rehabilitation for their brain injury?

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point, because there is evidence showing links between brain injuries and offending. If I may, I will take away his suggestion about testing across the board to see whether that is the right use of resources—that is something that we would have to look at—but he makes an important point about understanding the link between brain injuries and offending.

Photo of Pauline Latham Pauline Latham Conservative, Mid Derbyshire

When there are employers who wish not only to help people when they come out of prison but to train them while they are in prison, will my right hon. Friend ensure that no prison puts barriers in place because of risk assessments so that we ensure that they can actually help prisoners?

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

We do want to encourage employers to get into prisons to work with prisoners before they are released. It is important that there is not a huge cliff edge from being in prison to then being released. We need to look at the best ways in which we can do that.

Photo of Imran Hussain Imran Hussain Shadow Minister (Justice)

We welcome the Government’s emphasis on education and employment skills, as they are the best route out of poverty and the cycle of reoffending, but when the Secretary of State made the announcement, he forgot that he had scrapped the National Careers Service in prisons, and presented an employment strategy that omitted to mention the provision of employment and careers advice. Why was that absent from the strategy?

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I welcome the Opposition’s support for our focus on education and employment, but may I say to the House that Dame Sally Coates noted in her 2016 review of prison education that the National Careers Service was delivering a service in an increasingly crowded environment, with multiple employment advice and support services operating in custody and through the gate? That was why the decision was made to reform this area. It is right that we do so, but I am determined to ensure that we provide the right support to prisoners so that they can get a job when they are released.