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Prisoners: Work Programmes — Question for Short Debate

– in the House of Lords at 7:47 pm on 15th January 2013.

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Photo of Lord Carlile of Berriew Lord Carlile of Berriew Liberal Democrat 7:47 pm, 15th January 2013

To ask Her Majesty's Government what opportunities for re-training for prisoners will be provided by the newly developed policies for work in prisons; and how such work programmes will be commissioned.

Photo of Lord Carlile of Berriew Lord Carlile of Berriew Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I feel as though I have won a very small lottery this evening, and I am very pleased that we will have an extended time to deal with what I believe is the important issue of work in prison. I welcome, too, the significant interest in this debate, not least from the noble Lord, Lord Myners, who recently succeeded me as the president of the Howard League for Penal Reform, which I welcome very much. I regret that my noble friend Lady Hamwee is indisposed tonight and will not be speaking in this debate.

I mention the Howard League not least because it is the only organisation, as I understand it, ever to have run a real free-standing business inside a prison; that is, a business paying the rate for the job and with the prisoners wishing-though failing-to pay tax. Because of bureaucratic obstruction-I anticipate that the noble Lord, Lord Myners, may say a little about this later-it proved impossible to run it as a true business.

In my capacity as a lawyer and as a politician, I visited a very large number of prisons over a great many years. If you visit any prison, you will of course find prisoners doing some work. It may be a bit of gardening, some cleaning or some good or indifferent training courses. Some do contracted work. There are in fact about 100 firms that are contracted through NOMS to engage prisoners in work. However, that work goes to some 9,000 prisoners only-less than 12% of the prison population. Even for those who work, the average number of hours of work in 2010 was 11.8 hours per week, which hardly equates to a working week, and they were paid an average of £9.60.

Prison has several functions, including the protection of the public and retribution. Surely an important function is to release a human being who can live in the real world, which may be a confusing place for someone who left it several years earlier. Former prisoners need to be able to survive-therefore, they need money. Absent earnings in some cases, or in many cases, they will steal to survive. They need to pay rent for decent accommodation. Otherwise, prison may unfortunately provide their softest option for warmth and sustenance. Believe me, there are more than a few prisoners who have chosen prison as the most comfortable place to live. Prisoners need activity, otherwise idle hands may return all too swiftly to the twin devils of acquisitive and violent crime.

The advantage of work for prisoners while they are in prison is that when they become ex-prisoners and obtain jobs with their acquired skills, they can obtain not merely activity and earnings. Work involves other people, and working with other people includes the companionship, discipline and, above all, the self-respect that almost all regular work gives, whatever its nature. The benefits of work in your Lordships' House require no advocacy.

Most male prisoners-shockingly, more than half-did not work in the year before they entered custody. That is a depressing figure, particularly because there is a correlation between that figure and crime. An even sorrier tale is that in 2009, of those leaving prison, 27% of men entered work, which means that more than seven out of 10 men did not get jobs when they left prison; and 13% of women entered work, which means that nearly 90% of women did not obtain jobs when they left prison. If you look at schemes that have been run abroad, particularly in America, you will find that former prisoners employed by good managers, who provide high-quality training, become extremely enthusiastic and reliable workers. That is surely to be encouraged. The cost-benefit analysis is self-evident. But the fact that seven out of 10 men and nine out of 10 women leave prison without a hope of a job is in truth the narrative leading to the prison revolving door.

There is an unanswerable case for work, especially for longer-term prisoners serving three years or more. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response to that point. For such longer-term prisoners, there would be time to train them and the opportunity to teach them new skills. Many prisoners are much brighter than their pre-imprisonment qualifications would suggest. I recall going into a cell not many years ago where a young man showed me his maths GCSE A* certificate. When I asked him what he was proposing to do, he said, "I'm going to be a maths teacher, sir. I'm going to take maths A-level and go to university". He was obviously very talented at, and loved, mathematics. When I asked him how he had done in mathematics at school, he said, "I never went to school, sir". There is one single example from my own experience of someone who could be greatly upskilled in prison and be given the opportunity to have not just a job but a real career.

My suggestion to the Government is that if real work is to be brought into prisons, prisoners should earn the going rate for that job, thus avoiding the criticism that by doing such work they would undercut other producers. If a real effort were made to bring contractors into prison to provide work, they would come and provide that work. They would know, after all, that their workforce would at least turn up every day, or in most cases, anyway. The prisoners would pay tax-why not?-and national insurance, make payments towards a pension, contribute towards their families, earn something that is entirely free-namely pride-and, above all, be much fitter for release. In return for their work, they could be allowed privileges and extra purchases and, as the Howard League has suggested, there could be a levy on their earnings to compensate victims.

Mr Kenneth Clarke announced in May last year, as Lord Chancellor, the Government's One3One initiative. That is welcome but there is precious little sign of it bearing fruit. I am sure that the House would be interested to know what is being done. There is no sign of a proactive approach by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, for example, or from other parts of the statutory sector, to bring One3One to effect.

In the couple of minutes remaining, I want to add something about new prisons. The cause of fitting prisoners for the world outside and putting them to employed work depends on a number of factors. It depends on giving them work that provides some meaning for their future lives and on them being able to maintain a relationship with their families while they serve their sentences. I read with dismay the repeated proposal, which comes from any Government, from time to time, that a Titan prison should be built to replace some smaller prisons. A Titan prison would give rise to the usual government procurement problems; it would almost certainly cost a few hundred million pounds more than was estimated. There would be very serious security issues, which would force the authorities to break it down into a number of smaller prisons within a prison. There would be potential staffing problems for a massive establishment, particularly if it was on the sites that have been trailed in the media this week. It would be less likely to produce a Titan than a Titanic, and it is a voyage that sound penal policy should and could do without. I invite my noble friend, when he replies to this debate, to make it clear that at worst a Titan prison is just a thought, and that it is far yet from being a proposal.

Photo of Baroness Stedman-Scott Baroness Stedman-Scott Conservative 7:57 pm, 15th January 2013

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, on securing this debate. I declare an interest in that I am a chief executive of Tomorrow's People and try to work with some of the people that the noble Lord spoke about to make sure that they secure sustained employment.

It will come as no surprise to anyone here that I believe wholeheartedly that acquiring skills, undertaking training and being prepared for employment during any stay in prison-most importantly, on leaving prison-is critical if we are to ensure that people are supported and helped to secure sustained employment and to stop reoffending.

I would like to speak in support of the newly developed policies for work in prison. The focus of my contribution to this debate is on the benefits to prisoners and ex-offenders, rather than on the commissioning process. The objectives speak for themselves-of prisoners on a working week of 35 to 40 hours, their day focused on routine and work, with the economic benefits to them of being paid and having a wage and some control, in a very controlled environment, as well as the economic benefits to the prisons themselves. There should be links to business-getting businesses involved in this work is very important-and, of course, the creation of jobs through businesses and their supply chains.

Education, training and equipping prisoners for the world of work is very important. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, referred to somebody who wanted to be a maths teacher after being in prison. I suggest that there are many people in our prisons who are very clever in ways we wish they were not, but if that were channelled in the right direction they could become exemplary employees, contributing to society while securing qualifications during the process.

While all of these objectives are good, I suggest that, for those who are responsible for the programme, it should not be seen as a two-part, two-section approach-something that happens in prison and then something that happens when you come out. For me, the journey that prisoners would take while working in prisons should be seamless. From day one when they start work, it should be part of their journey into sustained employment. Therefore, it is not just about securing the skills to work or to be involved in a business; it is about getting them ready for that time when they leave prison and-we hope, if the links with business are as they should be-they will continue to work for that business or supply chain. The other things that should be put in place are a network of support and somewhere to live so that all the things that would burden them on release are completely taken away. It would be reliant on their becoming good employees, adding value to the business and being what I would call economically independent.

There are examples around the world of work of a similar nature. If you look at this country, we have Timpson-a terrific organisation. We have probably all had our shoes repaired, keys cut or dog tags engraved by it. It has its academies in prisons and employs these people when they leave prison-people who are forever grateful to have had the opportunity to realise their destiny. We all know about the national grid service: this, too, is a great thing.

I have been particularly struck by a project I have seen in America called Delancey Street, which is a programme to stop people reoffending and make sure that they achieve their potential. They themselves run real businesses which trade for profit and do not rely on the Government for any money. It is a true inspiration; there is a four-star restaurant which is well worth patronising. It also has a car service that drives executives around-from companies such as Gap-and is paid for its service. It also has a removal company, which is quite remarkable because it is paid to remove things from people's houses and put them somewhere else. I have to tell noble Lords that its first customer was Getty; he was moving and the people did not turn up with the removal van, so this lady-Mimi Silbert, who started this up and is about four feet tall and a human dynamo-went over and said, "My boys will move you". He had no choice and she guaranteed that nothing would be stolen-maybe broken, but that was it. It is now the biggest removal company on the west coast of America, trading for profit. Moreover, it owns a Christmas tree plantation, where it sells all its trees to people in San Francisco. The customers pay a premium because they know where the profits are going. It is absolutely true that Delancey Street got the contract to decorate Tiffany's.

I believe this is a tremendous thing for us to be doing. It is commercially sound, economically sensible, professional in every sense and shows a commercial compassion that we so need in this country.

Photo of Lord Wills Lord Wills Labour 8:03 pm, 15th January 2013

My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, on securing this debate on this important subject. He has set out the issues compellingly and I do not want to rehearse them here again or go over the ground set out so well just now by the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman-Scott.

I want to focus my remarks on the difficulties that small voluntary organisations face in making a contribution to the important work that is the subject of this debate, particularly if these organisations are offering activities that do not fit within conventional models of the work that prisoners do. I want to illustrate this through the experience of Fine Cell Work, a charity with which members of my family have been involved for some years. Fine Cell Work is a social enterprise that trains prisoners in paid, skilled, creative needlework; it is taught and supported by volunteers from the Embroiderers' and Quilters' Guilds. The prisoners are paid for their work, which is then sold around the world. The pieces are high-quality craftwork, interior design commissions and heritage pieces for organisations such as the V&A, English Heritage, Tate Modern and the National Gallery. Fine Cell Work has had great success in the 17 prisons where it currently works.

Craftwork in prison has been shown to help prisoners develop the more constructive and disciplined aspects of their personalities as they learn new skills and support their families with the money that they earn. It connects inmates to wider society and gives them hope for their future. This is exactly the sort of work that NOMS should be supporting. Apart from everything else, through the combination of work in cells and in studio workshops, it enables prisoners to do practical, skilled vocational work in a 50-hour week-which I think is unprecedented in prisons-with a focused link to employment opportunities on release. It is significant that 80% of the work of Fine Cell Work is done in cells. At a time when budget cuts are leading to more time being spent in cells, it means that prisoners can continue to learn skills that will make them more employable with minimal cost and supervision.

However, because this work does not fit within recognised categories, it has faced real obstacles in realising its full potential. Many prison managers still call it "hobby work" in spite of the professionalism of the products and its commercial success. More than £200,000 worth of goods are sold annually. Prisons have been reluctant to support the training side of the work by seconding education staff to support the charity's volunteers. To reinforce the prisoners' sense of achievement and encourage their rehabilitation, their skilled production work should be accredited, but the volunteers are not qualified to deliver accredited training on their own.

Fine Cell Work's ability to progress has been obstructed by such lack of support and the difficulties it faces in meeting bureaucratic criteria. This is an innovative, small social enterprise but if it is to expand, it needs to work in partnership. It is not a normal business because 70% of its income comes from grants and donations, and it is discounted as a factor in rehabilitation because the very specific NOMS methodology makes it impossible to prove that Fine Cell Work on its own prevents reoffending. Therefore, in this new world, can the Minister say what NOMS can do to safeguard such unorthodox training and rehabilitation programmes over and above work regimes that generate revenue for prisons? What will NOMS do to help small organisations such as this provide the evaluation data that NOMS rightly requires to enable it to make judgments on what sort of providers it wants to operate in prisons? What must small, hard-pressed organisations such as Fine Cell Work provide from their own slender resources? What can NOMS can do to facilitate partnerships between small organisations such as Fine Cell Work to enable them to achieve the critical mass they need to meet the requirements of the Ministry of Justice?

I hope the Minister will recognise the threat that the failure to nurture small organisations poses to creativity and innovation in these programmes. I hope he recognises that, over and over again, experience under this Government and the previous Government has shown that the default option of delivering public services by commissioning large organisations-whose main talent has often been only to comply with the bureaucratic procurement criteria of central government-has failed all too often to produce value for money. If we are to get value for money, and if we are to pioneer new approaches to delivering public services, we need these innovative, small organisations to flourish. They have a vital role to play in delivering public services, but to do that work they need a system in place that encourages them to do so and does not place unnecessary obstacles in their way. I hope that the Minister, in his response, can reassure your Lordships' House on all these points.

Photo of The Bishop of Liverpool The Bishop of Liverpool Bishop 8:09 pm, 15th January 2013

My Lords, although I am very sorry that we shall not be hearing from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, this evening, I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Wills, not least because one of my Christmas presents this year was an embroidered cushion from Fine Cell Work. It has attracted lots of comment as it has pride of place in my study. I am very grateful for this opportunity to commend the excellent work about which we have already heard.

This is a timely debate as old prisons are closing and new prisons are opening. Our old prisons were built on monastic lines with cells modelled on monastic cells so that prisoners would be encouraged to contemplate their crime, and reform. While we should never lose sight of that purpose, the architecture of new prisons should reflect the evidence that training and work programmes for prisoners can be transformative in rehabilitating offenders. Therefore, my question to the Minister is: will the architecture of new prisons reflect this aspect of government policy?

In my capacity as Bishop to Prisons and in the process of making a series of programmes for BBC Radio 4 last year called "The Bishop and the Prisoner", I have observed closely two retraining and work programmes: the Clink and the Timpson workshops, about which we have already heard. In both cases, training of the prisoners is done on the job, skilling them for future employment.

The Clink is a high-quality, West End-style restaurant created inside a prison, with professional chefs training prisoners to cook and serve paying clients. Two restaurants are already established in our prisons and a further eight are planned. Of the 35 prisoners who have been through the Clink and released, 29 have found jobs and only three have reoffended. Those are remarkable statistics. If those statistics are replicated in the planned further eight prisons, the Government must surely take note of the success of this programme. I have not only seen the statistics, I have tasted the food-I suppose that I ought to declare an interest. I have also met the prisoners without any staff being present and have seen the impact of this programme on their lives in improving their self-esteem and raising their aspirations.

The Timpson workshops, to which the noble Baroness referred, operate in three prisons at the moment. These prisoners learn to repair shoes and as they learn they are paid for their improving productivity as they gain more competence. The brilliance of these schemes is that when they leave prison, the best get jobs in the Timpson business. In other words, the job in prison is the pathway to employment on the outside. It is a great incentive for these offenders to work and retrain. I have listened to prisoners in these workshops and seen how acquiring a skill for the first time is transformative of their outlook and prospects.

I underline the fact that this is all to the credit of NOMS. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, has visited many prisons and so have I. It is clear to me that the determining factor in each prison is the visionary outlook of the governor. These schemes have benefited from the enthusiastic endorsement of the governors of the prisons concerned. Although Mr James Timpson, who provides much of the dynamism for these projects, says that from time to time his experience of getting NOMS to be more commercial is a bit like asking the North Korean Government to run Disneyland-to use his phrase-I am sure that NOMS will take that in the spirit in which it is offered. However, that comment highlights the fact that there is great scope within NOMS for a visionary governor to come alongside Fine Cell Work as well as the commercial enterprises and to use these to the benefit of offenders and to address the Government's hope of reducing reoffending. Will the Minister engage the visionaries behind these and other projects in the design of prisons so that transformative training and work can be at the heart of prisons, both physically and metaphorically?

Photo of Lord Myners Lord Myners Labour 8:15 pm, 15th January 2013

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate in this debate secured by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. It is a timely debate in the context of the Government's announcement last week of planned changes to the prison estate and to post-release supervision and support. I look forward to the Minister's response. I know that he has taken an active interest in prisons. He told me that he has recently visited Peterborough prison, where no doubt he had the opportunity to see, among other things, the excellent initiatives being developed there by Social Finance under the chairmanship of Bernard Horn and the leadership of David Hutchinson. I declare my interest as the successor to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, as president of the Howard League for Penal Reform.

As the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, said, some prisoners are paid for doing chores but it is a derisory sum. It is pocket money; in fact, it is less than the average pocket money paid per week to teenagers. It does not constitute employment or a meaningful preparation for release. Prison may, necessarily, have a punitive element but it should not deny the dignity of prisoners. It should focus instead on preparing offenders for a return to the community in an economically and socially purposeful and productive manner.

For many prisoners, life behind bars is sluggish and boring. Too little time is spent on education and helping them to develop the skills necessary to overcome what, for many of them, have been chaotic and painful life circumstances. As the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, noted, and I saw in a recent visit to Brixton prison, there is a great wealth of talent in prison. There are prisoners who want to stop lives of crime and re-establish productive lives which are no longer chaotic, but we are failing them in not taking as much action as we could to prepare them to return to the community and not be drawn back into offending and a life of crime. I found it painful to listen to two extremely bright prisoners who had the right motivation but were desperate about what was going to happen on their release because they did not feel in any way prepared to walk out through those gates and back into a safe, secure and hopeful life.

One of the most productive things prison can do is to prepare offenders for the world of regular and paid work. For some of them, this might be the first opportunity in their lives to develop work skills that can be applied in the formal economy. The way to get good outcomes-for prisoners and society-from the time spent in prison, is to provide a life-changing opportunity rather than the current practice, prevalent in so many prisons, of the prison being a warehouse or even worse.

I therefore urge the Government to focus their resources and ability to mobilise employers, to seek ways to create opportunities for prisoners to be gainfully employed, earning a fair wage and paying tax, and to provide the opportunity for prisoners to make a contribution out of their earnings to their families. Many of them feel that the link with their partners, wives, husbands and children is completely broken. I endorse the observation made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, about Titan prisons, which will inevitably increase the distance of travel between a prisoner and his family. If the Government want to reflect on this, I suggest they look at the views expressed by Mr Dominic Grieve, who, when he was shadow Justice Secretary, demolished the proposals for Titan prisons made by the Government of which I was a member.

We want to provide effective linkages between prisoners and their families. Through paid employment at a competitive and fair rate, prisoners will be able to make monetary contributions to their families, which will make them feel a continued link, a responsibility and a sense that they have retained their dignity, rather than the current conventional practice in which the conceit of treating a prisoner's partner as a single parent ignores any opportunity for continuing economic linkage between the prisoner and their family. We want to seize the opportunity to allow prisoners to learn transferable employment skills that will reduce the risk of reoffending, to their own benefit and that of the community.

This is not going soft on prisons or prisoners. It makes assuredly good economic and social sense. It reduces the risk of a vicious circle. Providing training and work is a very real way of breaking that circle. Paid work creates additional motivation and fosters a sense of near-normality. In so doing, we might be making a positive step to address the desperation of prisoners released with little support and little prospect of employment in the formal economy because of the absence of any training or working experience during the period of their imprisonment.

There are, of course, practical issues. What is the right rate for the job? How do employers have access to the prison estate? How do we ensure the continuity of service that a business will require? These challenges can be overcome if everybody has the will to do so. The right reverend Prelate has referred to the importance of the governor. I would also emphasise the importance of ministerial activity and leadership. I read in the Sunday Times Mr Steve Hilton's views on how difficult it was for Ministers to make change. I urge the Minister to take a personal interest in this area. Can he get together with other Ministers, including in the Department for Business, with employers and trade unions-we will hear in a moment from my noble friend Lady Dean-and with other agencies like the Howard League to see if he can place his mark on this particular area and be the Minister who changed the way in which prisons operate in preparing people to return to the economy as effective workers?

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat 8:22 pm, 15th January 2013

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on bringing this subject forward. Whenever we discuss, do any work on or pay attention to the subject of prisons, we are always struck by how repetitive the problems are, both for the people concerned and for those of us who have been talking about them over time.

Generally speaking, you take into prison someone who is an educational failure and has usually finished their education-at their own decision, or that of their group-at the age of about 14. They commit a series of petty offences and most are on a roundabout of increasing but short-term sentences. They usually finish their offending pattern by the age of about 35. By that time, they have no work pattern, they have broken down several family relationships, and the best that they can expect is a life on benefits. That is a depressing scenario on which there is absolutely no disagreement in this debate. I agree with the suggestions that have been made by my noble friends and everyone in the House who has spoken on this; getting people into a pattern of work is probably the most important thing that can happen to them. If we are to try to achieve any form of preparing people for adult life, that is a very good way forward.

One of the things that initially attracted me to this debate was the problem of getting training and qualifications for that group of people. In the debate and my preparations for it, I realised that the idea of providing the activity and experience of work-particularly given what the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman-Scott, has said-is a positive step forward because this group is probably one of the most difficult to train. What attracted me initially to the activity within prisons, and led to my ongoing interest in it, was the incredibly large number of people there with special educational needs, particularly dyslexia. My interests in dyslexia have been broadcast far too often in this Chamber.

Most of the assessments reckon that 50% of the prison population are within the dyslexia spectrum. The lowest figure that I have seen is 30%, and that was on an assessment of a group of 300. Assessments could not be carried out on 200 of them because they were too violent. Why does that not surprise anyone who has worked in this area? It is for the simple reason that if you have to admit that you cannot do the basic functions of reading and writing, you are going to resent someone who presents you with something on which you are going to be tested. You might not be dyslexic; you might just be stupid in the way that you have always been told.

I could give examples from my life, such as the discovery that my daughter could spell better than I could when she was seven. This is something that I never thought I would do but I recommend to noble Lords a programme on channel Five about Shane Lynch. I do not know if the House of Lords has a large following of the band Boyzone, but he is one of its members. He made a moving and articulate programme about someone who is dyslexic going through the problem of having to admit, "What if I am not dyslexic? What if I am thick? What if I have failed?". This was someone who had a soft landing. He was going to get involved in the garage that his father ran and that was his way forward. The music opportunity came along and he went off there. However, that very successful, rich and well known person was literally terrified at the thought that he might actually just be stupid in the way that people had told him, or in the way that he had assumed he was. In our prisons, we have people who have gone through the justice system for whom the idea of picking up a pencil and writing in public is a humiliating and painful experience. You have to reach them.

Recent government publications now mention special educational needs and take that idea on, but the one place that you cannot get this group of people into is a classroom-not unless you drive them there with whips and guns. For them, it is a frightening place where you reaffirm an unpleasant experience. It is quite obvious, once you think about it. Dyslexics are not the only group affected; you will find an overrepresentation of people with ADHD, Asperger's and head injury. People who cannot communicate do not handle the criminal justice system well.

I recommend a document, Dyslexia Behind Bars, which is the result of a study run by someone I saw in Chelmsford prison that initially looked at head injury and dyslexia. Here, successful intervention was achieved, primarily by developing and training mentors to go in, speak to a prisoner on an equal level and communicate. Once you have that level of communication, other things become possible. Formalised training and help become possible, but only once you have established that degree of communication. The formalised classroom will not achieve this because people will not use it.

I hope that the Government will embrace the Chelmsford project because I presented a copy of the report to my noble friend Lord McNally, in the company of my noble friend Lady Hamwee, who is much missed. It describes how, when you go in and talk to people on their own level because they trust you, you can begin that communication process. If you are going to strive for formal qualifications in the modern world, you generally have to pass a written test or know how to say why you should get help with that test. In both cases you need information.

I hope that when the Minister replies he will pay attention to the very high number of people in prison who need help with accessing all forms of formalised training and, indeed, with filling out benefit forms when they leave. If we do not pay attention to this, we will create more trouble.

Photo of Baroness Uddin Baroness Uddin Non-affiliated 8:30 pm, 15th January 2013

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, for bringing this matter before the House in a most poignant manner. It gives me an opportunity to share my experience of working with Kazuri, a social enterprise working to re-house female ex-offenders and women who have suffered domestic violence.

I had the privilege recently to launch Kazuri's report in the House, attended by grass-root practitioners and campaigning organisations, as well as NOMS and the Ministry of Justice. There were more than 80 individuals present. The meeting was addressed by the human rights lawyer, Imran Khan, and the barrister and legal specialist, Flo Krause, as well as by Julia Gibby, who had also prepared evidence to the Justice Committee's inquiry on women in the criminal justice system.

There are 4,133 women in prison and, staggeringly, 224 of them are Muslim. The report calls for a dismantling of the existing female estate, saying it has no relevance to the needs of women in prison. I commend the report to the House and hope that many noble Lords will take the opportunity to read it, as it makes a harrowing case about the level of misogyny against women in prison. Women serving the end of their sentences at an open prison were surveyed by Kazuri, which identified consistent gaps in provision in training and educational opportunities.

In the current climate of privatisation of public services, the recent probation service announcements and the building of yet more Titan prisons, women are punished far more heavily in prisons that lack trained staff. Kazuri's report states that underfunded privatised education and resettlement departments are ill equipped to facilitate resettlement and rehabilitation.

We must ensure that there is no further replication of the Work Programme, which has not been a successful example of large private sector companies working with the smaller social enterprises and charities, which walked away. I hope that the Minister will say how the Government intend to work with smaller companies and organisations to deliver more ethical and appropriate services, where large-scale organisations and providers have thus far failed.

It is alarming that, according to the charity Women in Prison, 87% of women who are serving custodial sentences have been victims of violence. According to the Chief Inspector of Prisons, HMP Holloway, which I have visited, no longer offers any courses in understanding domestic violence for the women prisoners.

While the Government are making strides generally to bring violence against women to a higher level on the policy agenda, this must be reflected in the prison estate. If women are not empowered to deal with the impact and long-standing trauma of prison, they will be released and simply fall back into cycles of abuse and-inevitably-crime, to which the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, has eloquently referred.

As a Parliament committed to rooting out violence against women, we cannot leave women in prison out of this equation. Interestingly, the noble lord, Lord McNally, in response to a Question from my noble friend Lady Corston, agreed to yet another review when asked whether custodial care and offender management should be organised to meet gender-specific requirements. The Corston report is the most comprehensive review of women in the criminal justice system. It seems perverse that this universally accepted framework to look at the needs of women across the raft of ministries and statutory duties appears to have been sidelined by this Government.

I respectfully submit that the time for reviews is over. There have been numerous reports on and reviews into the plight of women in the criminal justice system, and I urge Her Majesty's Government to look at the wealth of evidence collated by the Justice Committee as a result of its recent inquiry. Kazuri's submission to the Justice Committee says that more women than men lose their homes and children as a result of their incarceration, and that more children and public services are affected in profound ways by the incarceration of women. Some 17,000 children suffer every year because their mothers have been placed in custody. Will the Minister say how the Government intend to tackle the disproportionate inequalities faced by women in the criminal justice system?

I submit that the eradication of inequality is not synonymous with treating everybody equally. This is both disingenuous and deeply flawed. It is disingenuous because it gives supremacy to a concept that few would be hard pushed to criticise-namely, upholding the prima facie eradication of inequality-without actually and actively giving weight to evidence and outcomes. It is also deeply flawed because the criminal law and indeed equalities law do not require that criminal offences, maximum penalties and the principles of sentencing should be the same irrespective of the sex of the offender.

When it comes to women offenders, we know what needs to be done. Small alternatives to custody units, intensive therapeutic interventions and the increased use of community-based sentences have all shown tremendous results in reducing reoffending in women and are far less expensive. Can the Minister tell me and the House what we are waiting for and when the directive will be announced to make the seemingly obvious happen?


"It seems perverse that this universally accepted framework to look at the needs of women across the raft of ministries and statutory duties appears to have been sidelined by this Government."

As Mrs UDDIN escaped prison by the skin of her teeth, for offences against the Lords and the taxpayer, it seems perverse she talks about the government sidelining anything to do with statutory duties!

Submitted by Tartan Giant

Photo of Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde Labour 8:36 pm, 15th January 2013

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, and congratulating him on obtaining this debate this evening. Had he been here, the late Lord Corbett of Castle Vale would certainly have been one of the participants. Over his 34 years in Parliament, both in the other place and here, prison reform was at the top of his agenda. Indeed, one of his many successes in that area was introducing his Private Member's Bill guaranteeing anonymity for victims of rape. Over the years, the issues that he raised were not very popular, so it is encouraging this evening to listen to and participate in this debate, which is being approached by every speaker in a compassionate but very realistic way. Debates on this subject have not always been like that.

Prison, I am told, is about retribution and reform, but all too often the end result is the brutalisation of the individuals who are incarcerated. Sometimes they come out much more bruised and damaged than when they went in. The area of this debate that I should like to concentrate on is work and being paid for work.

When people go to prison, they sit around and do nothing for hours and hours, yet on their release we expect them to come out as whole human beings. Part of life is having self-esteem and feeling that we have a role to play in society. If a prisoner has a family, he or she wants to be able to hold their head up in that family and say, "I have paid the price. I want to pick up the strands of being part of the family and move forward". Yet, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, their chance of employment is very low. Work does not come naturally. It is about discipline; it is about getting up; and it is about contributing and feeling that you are doing something worth while. If in prison you come out with just over £9 for any work you get-and that is not £9 an hour but a week-the message is that what you are doing is not worth while. You are not a worth while person; you are in prison; you have offended against society; you are not even worth a half-decent payment or, in too many cases, any kind of training at all.

These are some of the reasons why the trades union movement supports this proposal very strongly. Prisoners work and prisoners get paid. Can the Minister be very clear about the Government's approach and their policy and strategy going forward? We know that it cannot be resolved overnight. Trade unions would support prisoners being paid a decent wage. The national minimum wage is the obvious benchmark, as we do now have a benchmark. Any employer outside employing someone at below the national minimum wage can be prosecuted.

Work does not have to be done in the prison. It can be done outside under supervised control. It can be in the industrial scene, in the agricultural world or in a whole range of areas. It is at least trying to equip someone when they leave prison to be able to hold their head up and say, "I have had some training. I know what work is; I have done it, I have been paid for it, and I am now ready to take my place in society,".

The Howard League statistics show that something like 30,000 male adult prisoners have long-term sentences. I just cannot conceive what it must be like to be a human being incarcerated for a long time in prison, with nothing to do or whatever work I am doing to be such a low grade that it is regarded as menial. Yet maybe I have the intelligence and ability, with some training. to do better. To then come outside and try to pick up the strands is an almost impossible task.

This debate this evening is an important one. It is probably one step down a long road but certainly there is no reason why the outcome cannot be very constructive. Of course, that depends almost entirely on the answer from the Minister this evening. I urge him to give us as much encouragement as possible and to set out just what the Government's policy is in this area.

Photo of Lord Beecham Lord Beecham Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Justice) 8:42 pm, 15th January 2013

My Lords, I join all other previous speakers in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, on securing the debate and on opening it so eloquently and so fully. The European Convention on Human Rights proclaims the right of citizens, including prisoners, to have access to education and to vocational and continuing training. That is at the forefront of what the noble Lord has been discussing tonight. In fairness to the Government, it is something to which they have now addressed their minds. I welcome also their commitment to rehabilitation, while not necessarily agreeing with all the methods, including payment by results, which they propose to use.

However, it is quite clear-and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, effectively referred to this-that the biggest contributing factors to avoiding reoffending are if prisoners and ex-offenders have a home and a job to go to. Between them, those factors make something like a 50% difference to their chances of avoiding reoffending. It is interesting that a report from the Prison Reform Trust, Out For Good, demonstrates that one-third of prisoners with a home to go to also had a job to go to, which was three times as many as those without a home to go to. There is clearly a correlation there. One-quarter of those leaving prison enter a job on release but a survey of prisoners shows that half of them felt that they needed help to get a job. Equally, half lacked the skills required for no less than 96% of jobs, so there is a clear gap that has to be filled in their interests and in the interests of the community at large.

As my noble friend Lord Myners pointed out, sustaining links with family and employers is also key to reintegrating prisoners into the community and increasing significantly their chances of avoiding reoffending. I join with my noble friend Lord Myners and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, in being extremely doubtful about the proposal to build vast prisons. They may be a very long way from centres of communication, from people's families and from potential employers. That is not likely to contribute to the ready access to employment that one would hope to see.

However, it is not only the building of prisons that causes problems but the transfer of prisoners between different establishments. The National Audit Office pointed out that a third of training courses and the like in prisons are not completed, of which half are due to prisoners being transferred. It also pointed out that learning records are often lost when prisoners are transferred. Timpson and other organisations do valuable work with prisoners, but if they are involved and prisoners are transferred, again there is a potential break.

Of course, there are low levels of literacy and numeracy among prisoners. However, I note that Ofsted no longer judges the effectiveness of learning, skills and work in prison. I wonder why that is so and whether the Government should not look again at the issue and encourage Ofsted to become involved in carrying out precisely that kind of assessment. It seems to fall within its province.

In the past, when Ofsted reported, it found that only 15 out of 24 prisons had a satisfactory record on training and that there were too few links with employers. There was also a view formed by the Education and Skills Committee in the House of Commons that not enough is done for more able offenders. The estimates of the proportion vary quite considerably but a significant number of offenders have qualifications or the ability to obtain qualifications and, on being surveyed, they often feel that they are not given sufficient support in maximising their potential. The Education and Skills Committee expressed doubts about that. Again, it would be interesting to know what, if anything, the Government have concluded about that and whether they would seek to improve matters.

As we have heard, work does not necessarily need to be carried out within the prison establishment. It can be, and often it is helpful to be, outside in the community, in workplaces, or with voluntary organisations. I join my noble friend Lord Wills in encouraging the Government to promote the role of the voluntary sector and social enterprises in developing the skills and assisting not only in training but in employment.

In terms of employment, I wonder whether the Minister would be able to indicate the current thinking of the Government about how bringing contractors into prisons might work. There are already some in prisons but if that is to be developed, will the Government ensure that those employers are not able to undercut their competitors in the marketplace, for example, by paying very modest amounts either to the Government or indeed to the prisoners? I hope that the Government will recognise the force of the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, that a proper wage should be paid and that certainly some of it should be taken to compensate victims of crime. We all know the story of prisoners leaving prison with a very limited amount of money, whereas, as the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, has pointed out, they could be allowed to retain some, which would assist their reintegration into society on the basis that they had actually earned the money while in prison.

Have the Government looked at the report produced by the Prison Reform Trust, Time Well Spent: APractical Guide to Active Citizenship and Volunteering in Prison? What responses have the Government had in terms of not just the employment side but the relationship and developmental sides of non-employment skills, which can clearly help people gain employment in the marketplace? The Minister may not be able to respond to all of these questions across the Dispatch Box tonight; perhaps he would write in due course. However, what has happened about the mandatory work placement programme that was announced in the document on employment support for prisoners, published last year? Given the general low level of performance of the Work Programme, has this had the anticipated impact on prisoners?

Finally, there are one or two points raised by the Prisoners Education Trust. Having surveyed a number of prisoners, it discloses that many felt they were unable to give a specific label to their learning difficulties, when they had them, because they had not had a proper screening or official diagnosis. It also noted that BME respondents achieved fewer qualifications in prison than white respondents. There was a request for increased access to computers and a wide range of books and materials to help prisoners with their learning. I do not know whether the Government have considered this document as a whole. Perhaps in due course the Minister could indicate whether they have done so and whether they are prepared to look at the issues raised, which clearly could contribute to meeting the important demand and requirement for assisting people to emerge from prison with skills, experience and a capacity to reintegrate into society. In particular, it would help them into a way of life which will diminish the chances of reoffending.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 8:51 pm, 15th January 2013

My Lords, I join noble Lords in paying tribute to my noble friend Lord Carlile for securing this debate and for his work with the Howard League. Its stewardship is in good hands as my noble friend hands over to the noble Lord, Lord Myners. I look forward to working with him on new initiatives. As the noble Lord, Lord Myners, pointed out, I am relatively new to this role but I have had the opportunity to visit a prison and have been looking into the initiatives. I shall share my thoughts on those over the next few minutes.

I welcome the opportunity to talk about prisoner work. I believe it is a key factor in ensuring that we deliver significantly less reoffending. Last week, the Government published proposals for transforming the rehabilitation of offenders, reinforcing the commitment to bring major change in the way we tackle reoffending. We acknowledge the contribution that businesses and community and voluntary organisations make in supporting the work of prisons and probation services. The noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, and the noble Lord, Lord Wills, mentioned some of these and I will come on to talk about specifics in a moment. The proposals will provide more opportunities for a payment by results model to generate innovation from our partners in mentoring and supporting prisoners to lead law abiding lives. Their success much depends on finding and holding down a job. I welcome the words of the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, and associate myself with his concluding remarks.

In a Ministry of Justice survey carried out in 2010, 68% of prisoners reported that having a job would be important in helping them to stop offending. Some 13% reported that they had never been in paid employment. Work in prisons provides a rich environment for learning and qualifications and our current thinking places a strong focus on identifying labour market needs in the areas into which prisoners will resettle and designing the learning and skills curriculum to reflect this. Employability training will be paramount during the year leading up to release to ensure that prisoners have the best possible opportunity of finding work.

My noble friend Lord Carlile mentioned various statistics. In looking at some of the figures, I was startled to read that 58% of newly-sentenced prisoners regarded themselves as having been regular truants while in the education system. Some 40% were excluded from school and 46% left school with no qualifications. That is the challenge which lies ahead.

It is not just about vocational training. We know that lots of prisoners lack basic numeracy and literacy. I saw it myself when I visited Peterborough. That acts as a major barrier to employment. We have therefore introduced a greater emphasis on assessing and addressing a prisoner's literacy and numeracy skills when they first come into custody. Included within this is provision for foreign national prisoners for whom English may not be their native tongue. English language skills are about empowering people and empowering prisoners to become productive citizens when they leave prison. English language skills will not only be important for them in the labour market but also in helping them successfully to integrate within the prison environment, communicate with prison staff and participate in programmes that support their rehabilitation.

We have also increased opportunities for prisoners to take up apprenticeships and work is in progress to increase apprenticeship opportunities for prisoners through release on temporary licence and potentially in prison work areas. For example, four prisoners from Springhill prison are being released on licence to undertake land-based apprenticeships working on a 90-acre patch of Forestry Commission land near Henley-on-Thames.

On traineeships, the Government published a discussion paper last week. Traineeships will provide a new opportunity to help young people aged between 16 and 24 develop the skills and attitudes that employers look for. We would like traineeships to be available to prisoners, supporting them into apprenticeships and other opportunities at a later stage. We are still in the design stage, but the government discussion paper suggested three core elements: a focused period of work preparation training, including areas such as CV writing, interview preparation and job search; a substantial, high quality placement to give the young person a chance to develop workplace skills and prove themselves to an employer; and English and maths for those who have not achieved a GCSE grade C or equivalent. The availability of high quality work placements will clearly be an issue for prisoners. We would welcome ideas about how such placements might be made available. Indeed, I invite all noble Lords to contribute to this process.

Several noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Carlile and the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, talked about prisoners being idle. I come from a family where sitting idle was not an option; going out to work was. We must create those conditions for prisoners as well. We must do that by engaging them in the world of work. Work itself is rehabilitative, as many noble Lords have already said. But in my own brief experience of talking to prisoners, it is not just about the skills. It is about learning to get to work on time and the expectation that you are accountable and responsible not just for yourself but for the work that you do. It is the expectation that you will work a full day and then build leisure and other activities around your work, as we have all learnt to do over many years. It is about the ability, importantly, to work as part of a team taking and giving responsibility and following instructions. We must increase the opportunities for work within all prisons, and we are doing this.

We are looking to work closely with businesses as well. I was touched by my noble friend Lady Stedman-Scott's personal experience of working constructively with local and national businesses. We need to make it as simple as possible for our commercial partners to join in. This will support UK industry, enable growth and offer opportunities to deliver work in the UK, which may currently be offshore due to economic constraints and labour shortages.

Prisons are increasingly structuring their regimes to accommodate longer working hours; for example, by moving recreation activities to evenings and providing for prisoners to eat lunch in work areas. This has helped to increase the number of hours worked by prisoners and the number of prisoners working the average length of a working week across the prison estate.

The right reverend Prelate raised the issue of new prisons. I fully concur with his experiences and I assure him that any new prison will be designed to provide sufficient activities for those in custody to ensure that we get the best out of prisoners for their constructive benefit for the future.

As well as engaging prisoners in delivering production and service work there are substantial numbers of prisoners who work within prisons, as we all know, to keep them running-serving meals, in maintenance and cleaning. Indeed, I have seen that for myself. Many more prisoners participate in a broad range of activities to tackle their particular needs, including addressing thinking skills, anger management and so on and so forth.

The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, drew particular attention to training shortfalls. The important thing is that this is not a one-size-fits-all for every prisoner. We need to identify prisoner training needs and prisoner abilities as soon as they enter the prison environment so that they can live productively with tailored programmes suited to them.

If I may touch on the issue of tax and salaries, are prisoners paid for undertaking schemes? Certainly, prisoners who work outside the establishment in paid jobs pay national insurance and tax, while prisoners who are employed inside the prison are exempt from national minimum wage legislation. There are added elements, but in view of the shortage of time, I will write to noble Lords specifically on the issue of pay and tax.

However, as many noble Lords have mentioned, we cannot stop at the prison gate. This was a point well made by the noble Lord, Lord Myners. We want to ensure that offenders are better supported on release. Those prisoners who are eligible to claim jobseeker's allowance are now immediately referred to the Government's Work Programme. Work Programme providers are also encouraged to work with prisoners prior to their release, together with a number of other local partners, including Jobcentre Plus, the National Careers Service and education providers, who are all working collaboratively across clusters of prisons between which prisoners often transfer, to share information and drive this work.

We also mentioned different innovations in prisons. As I alluded to earlier, when I visited Peterborough prison, I was very impressed with its post-release support service, where ex-prisoners can call into a centre outside the gate, to receive help, information and support. The new reforms that we are proposing will look for and allow similar schemes to be replicated across the country.

My noble friend Lord Addington talked about dyslexia and learning disabilities. Making Prisons Work calls for a new focus on assessing and then addressing the needs of those with learning difficulties or disabilities. Again, referring to my personal experience in Peterborough, I learnt about issues such as resistance in the classroom. The classroom environment was created within the prison to help prisoners, but not in an intimidating way, to ensure that there was one-on-one training. Peer mentors are also very effective, involving prisoners who understand and have been through those experiences and share them. Most important is the element of trust; I saw that working well in Peterborough. I am sure that other prisons across the country replicate similar schemes.

The noble Lord, Lord Wills, talked about Fine Cell Work. I have read with interest about the work of that particular initiative. I assure him that I would be quite happy to put Fine Cell Work in touch with officials of NOMS; I am keen to learn more about this service. Indeed, as I was leaving Peterborough I was handed a pair of cufflinks made by the Jailbirds initiative, which are quite quaint. I should have worn them for this debate, but perhaps I will wear them another time. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Wills, and the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, who made reference to the particularly notable feature of Women in Prison, that we are also reviewing the women's estate to ensure that it is organised as effectively as possible to meet gender-specific needs, including learning and development activities.

My noble friend Lord Carlile and the noble Lord, Lord Myners, touched upon the whole issue of Titan prisons. It is a bit of a scary term in itself. I assure both noble Lords that no decision has been taken on the potential size of any new prison. The Secretary of State has announced a review to examine the feasibility of constructing a new prison.

Let me assure your Lordships' House that this is a very important issue. In my short time in charge of this brief, I have committed to seeing that we make progress, and I believe that noble Lords across the Chamber have much to offer in this respect. I would encourage them and I look forward to working with them. Our rehabilitation revolution is being supported by other initiatives such as the provision of more support and challenge to get prisoners off drugs, building on the success of the drug recovery wings and a review of the Incentives and Earned Privilege Scheme. I will continue to welcome all views, as will the Secretary of State, on taking forward this important policy initiative. Perhaps I may close by using his words when he launched the Transforming Rehabilitation consultation:

"Transforming rehabilitation will help to ensure that all of those sentenced ... are properly punished while being fully supported to turn their backs on crime for good-meaning lower crime, fewer victims and safer communities".-[Hansard, Commons, 9/1/13; col. 19WS.]

Those are sentiments which I am sure will resonate across your Lordships' House.

House adjourned at 9.04 pm.